Sunday 6th June 2021
Prayer: God of truth and mercy we come before you now knowing that where we break down – you build up; where we damage – you repair; where we blaspheme – you bless; where we isolate – you include; where we go wrong – you put us right; where we confess – you forgive and where we begin again – you are with us. So thank you Lord for loving us so much that even though we don’t always do what you would like us to or in the way you want us to, we can be assured that as believers in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we are always safe in your care. Amen
After sailing straight across, we came to Cos; the next day we reached Rhodes, and from there we went on to Patara. There we found a ship that was going to Phoenicia, so we went aboard and sailed away. We came to where we could see Cyprus, and then sailed south of it on to Syria. We went ashore at Tyre where the ship was going to unload its cargo. There we found some believers and stayed with them a week. By the power of the Spirit they told Paul not to go to Jerusalem. But when our time with them was over, we left and went on our way. All of them, together with their wives and children, went with us out of the city to the beach, where we all knelt and prayed. Then we said goodbye to one another, and we went on board the ship while they went back home.
We continued our voyage, sailing from Tyre to Ptolemais, where we greeted the believers and stayed with them for a day. On the following day we left and arrived in Caesarea. There we stayed at the house of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen as helpers in Jerusalem. He had four unmarried daughters who proclaimed God’s message. We had been there for several days when a prophet named Agabus arrived from Judea. He came to us, took Paul’s belt, tied up his own feet and hands with it, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: The owner of this belt will be tied up in this way by the Jews in Jerusalem, and they will hand him over to the Gentiles.”
When we heard this, we and the others there begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem. But he answered, “What are you doing, crying like this and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be tied up in Jerusalem but even to die there for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” We could not convince him, so we gave up and said, “May the Lord’s will be done.” After spending some time there, we got our things ready and left for Jerusalem.
After the emotional farewell party in Miletus, Luke again takes us through the various ports of call on their journey, telling us that they stopped at Cos, which is a small island due south of Miletus. Then Rhodes, a larger island to the south east and due east of there to Patara which is where they transfer to a ship heading for Phoenicia. While sailing they saw Cyprus but didn’t stop there, just passed to the south of it on their way to Syria, landing in Tyre where the ship unloaded its cargo.
At this point I have to remind myself that in those days they didn’t have the technology that we have today and so when Luke tells us that they found some believers I have to think about this probably being an unexpected surprise for them otherwise I’m not sure he would have used the word found. It also reminds me how God goes ahead of us putting things in place that we will need as we do His will. This is why it is unnecessary to worry about how things will be achieved but instead to trust Him and wait patiently to be shown the way. God is always working away in the background putting things and people in the right place and I can testify to this personally as can many other Christians.
Anyway they stay a week with the believers and it appears to have been an interesting time as they told Paul that he shouldn’t go to Jerusalem and Luke says that was by the power of the Holy Spirit. However it didn’t change Paul’s mind and eventually they left and went on their way and it seems there was another emotional goodbye as everyone accompanied Paul and his fellow travellers to the beach where they knelt and prayed before going on board the ship.
They travelled 25 miles south of Tyre to Ptolemais where they greeted the believers there and stayed with them for a day before continuing their journey to Caesarea (which was built by Herod the Great), and here they stayed with Philip the Evangelist. I believe he is called Philip the Evangelist to distinguish him from Philip the Apostle, one of Jesus’ first disciples. Now we have heard about him before earlier in Acts when he was chosen as one of the seven men to sort out the quarrel between the native Jewish widows and the Greek speaking ones. If you remember the issue was about the daily distribution of funds and how the Greek speaking widows thought they were being neglected and not being treated the same as the native Jewish widows. Philip was chosen because folk knew he was full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. He is later found preaching in Samaria and is the same Philip who met and explained the book of Isaiah to the Ethiopian eunuch and baptised him on the road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza. He has been in Caesarea for the past 20 years and now has four unmarried daughters who it seems are prophets (they proclaim God’s message).
Several days later another prophet from Judea called Agabus turns up. Now he is possibly the same one we met in Acts 11 who predicted a severe famine which actually happened when Claudius was Emperor. He also shares a prophesy about Paul, but with a demonstration. He takes Paul’s belt, although I am informed by reading what others say that this is possibly not a belt as we would imagine, but a long piece of cloth worn by Paul as a girdle, he then ties himself us with it and says, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: The owner of this belt will be tied up in this way by the Jews in Jerusalem and they will hand him over to the Gentiles.”
Well I can imagine the gasps and other noises of not wanting to believe what has just been said as well as what followed when they tried to talk Paul out of going to Jerusalem. I remember the times before when Paul has known there is trouble ahead and has slipped away to safety but not this time. This time there is no slipping away instead he says to them, “What are you doing, crying like this and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be tied up in Jerusalem but even to die there for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” Paul is determined, he’s going and they are not to try and weaken his resolution to go because he cannot be dissuaded. They realise there is nothing they can do to change his mind, so they say, “May the Lord’s will be done.”
Sometimes in our lives we also have to say, “May the Lord’s will be done.” Especially when things seem to be out of our control, whether because of ill health or a situation we cannot sort out and at times we have to go on ahead to places we don’t necessarily want to go. However like Paul, we carry on knowing that the goal in our lives is to follow Jesus, to run in the race where God has placed us and to faithfully journey along the narrow path which leads to Him, regardless of the cost because the reward we know will be much greater.
So if life is tough for you at the moment or for someone you love and care about, can I encourage you just to sit in the presence of God, in the knowledge of his love and as it says in Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God.
Prayer: Father, often we don’t find life easy, sometimes we have things to do and places to go that we aren’t looking forward to. In those times Lord help us to remember both the example of Jesus and of Paul who we have been following today. Help us to know that you are ultimately in control and can be trusted and help us to put our trust in you and not the things of this world. Help us just to be still and know that you are God. Amen
Sunday 13th June 2021
Prayer: Creator God, as we give this time to you we thank you that you are here with us. Help us Lord as we sit in your presence to not only bring before you our concerns and worries, joys and delights but also to be ready to listen to what you have to say to us, as you direct our lives. Give us open hearts and minds Lord and a joyful disposition as we serve you and only you today. Amen
Last week Paul after spending time with the believers in Caesarea has now said goodbye to them and makes his way to Jerusalem, although some of the folk from there accompany him on the journey, and it seems they already know who and where they will stay when they arrive.
Some of the disciples from Caesarea also went with us and took us to the house of the man we were going to stay with – Mnason, from Cyprus, who have been a believer since the early days. When we arrived in Jerusalem, the believers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to see James; and all the church elders were present. Paul greeted them and gave a complete report of everything that God had done among the gentiles through his work. After hearing him, they all praised God. Then they said, “Brother Paul, you can see how many thousands of Jews have become believers, and how devoted they all are to the Law. They have been told that you have been teaching all the Jews who live in Gentile countries to abandon the Law of Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or follow the Jewish customs. They are sure to hear that you have arrived. What should be done, then? This is what we want you to do.
There are four men here who have taken a vow. Go along with them and join them in the ceremony of purification and pay their expenses; then they will be able to shave their heads. In this way everyone will know that there is no truth in any of the things that they have been told about you, but that you yourself live in accordance with the Law of Moses. But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent them a letter telling them we decided that they must not eat any food that has been offered to idols, or any blood, or any animal that has been strangled, and they must keep themselves from sexual immorality.”
So Paul took the men and the next day performed the ceremony of purification with them. Then he went into the Temple and gave notice of how many days it would be until the end of the period of purification, when a sacrifice would be offered for each one of them.
So Paul has finally arrived in Jerusalem and stays with Mnason, an early believer who originally came from Cyprus and we are told that he and his companions were warmly welcomed. The next day after settling in they go off to see James, who was the recognised leader of the church in Jerusalem since it seems that Peter and John have left the city.
This isn’t the first time Paul and James have met over the years and as he has probably done on the other occasions Paul gives an update on what’s been happening with the Gentile (non-Jew) believers through his work. After they had listened to Paul we are told they praised God. Now you could think everything was tip-top and hunky-dory however there is an issue and obviously it’s one that James and his elders have identified, discussed and think they have come up with a solution, which they now share with Paul and company.
So what’s the issue? Well, it’s the rumour that’s going round saying Paul is teaching the Jews who live in Gentile countries to abandon the Law of Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or follow the Jewish Customs.
Rumours! What dangerous, harmful things they can be, you know what it’s like, every time they’re retold they get embellished with a bit more hearsay and less truth. Rumours can be as catastrophic today as they were in Paul’s time, so it seems that James and his elders want to stem the rumours as soon as possible after Paul’s arrival, because they know him being there will not go unnoticed.
The solution James and his Elders have come up with means that Paul has to do something to show that he is in fact still a practicing Jew who follows the Law of Moses in his own life, I assume they are hoping that this will quell the tide of dissention.
The plan involves four men who have taken a vow. This is probably a Nazirite vow which if you are interested you can read about in the book of Numbers chapter 6. A vow had to be a voluntary decision to dedicate yourself to God for a period of time. The person, male or female is required not to drink alcohol or cut their hair and they cannot go near a dead body, even if one of their own family dies. At the end of the allotted time the person shaves their head and a sacrifice is offered.
Paul is to go with them and join them in the ceremony of purification and pay their expenses (I’m not sure why Paul has to pay and if any of you more learned folk out there know please share the information). The expected outcome is that folk will believe there is no truth in the circulating rumours and that Paul does in fact live in accordance with the Law of Moses.
So this tackles the Jewish believers issues but what about the Gentiles, well James says they have written to the Gentile believers saying that they should stick to a few rules which are not to eat any of the following:
- Food that has been offered to idols
- An animal that has been strangled
Also they are to keep themselves from sexual immorality. In this way I think they are hoping that everyone will be happy.
Paul obviously agrees to do this and we are told that the next day he takes the men and performs the ceremony of purification with them. He then went into the temple and gave notice of how many days it would be until the end of the purification period, after which a sacrifice would be offered for each one of them.
Next week we will find out what happened and if the carefully devised plan worked in the meantime here’s a song which we will use as a prayer.
Father hear the prayer we offer, not for ease that prayer shall be, but for strength that we may ever live our lives courageously. Not for ever in green pastures, do we ask our way to be, but by steep and rugged pathways would we strive to climb to Thee. Not for ever by still waters would we idly quiet stay, but would smite the living fountains from the rocks along our way. Be our strength in hours of weakness, in our wanderings be our guide, through endeavour failure danger, Father be thou at our side. Let our path be bright or dreary, storm or sunshine be our share. May our souls in hope unweary, make Thy work our ceaseless prayer.
CCLI Licence No. 1084639
God bless Rev Sue
Sunday 20th June 2021
Prayer: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come and thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. Forever and ever. Amen
So last week Paul arrives in Jerusalem and meets with James who thinks there could be a problem because of Paul’s visit. However he has worked out a plan to counteract it and sent Paul into the temple to play his part in keeping everything calm. But things don’t always work out as planned, do they?
But just when the seven days were about to come to an end, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the Temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized Paul. “Men of Israel!” they shouted. “Help! This is the man who goes everywhere teaching everyone against the people of Israel, the Law of Moses, and this Temple. And now he has even brought some Gentiles into the Temple and defiled this holy place!” (They said this because they had seen Trophimus from Ephesus with Paul in the city, and they thought that Paul had taken him into the Temple).
Confusion spread through the whole city, and the people all ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple. At once the Temple doors were closed. The mob was trying to kill Paul, when a report was sent up to the commander of the Roman troops that all Jerusalem was rioting. At once the commander took some officers and soldiers and rushed down to the crowd. When the people saw him with the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. The commander went over to Paul, arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked, “Who is this man, and what has he done?” Some in the crowd shouted one thing, others something else. There was such confusion that the commander could not find out exactly what had happened, so he ordered his men to take Paul up into the fort. They got as far as the steps with him, and then the soldiers had to carry him because the mob was so wild. They were all coming after him and screaming, “Kill him!”
As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the fort, he spoke to the commander: “May I say something to you?” “You speak Greek, do you?” the commander asked. “Then you are not that Egyptian fellow who some time ago started a revolution and led four thousand armed terrorists out into the desert?” Paul answered, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city. Please let me speak to the people.” The commander gave him permission, so Paul stood on the steps and motioned with his hand for the people to be silent. When they were quiet, Paul spoke to them in Hebrew: “My fellow-Israelites, listen to me as I make my defence before you!” When they heard him speaking to them in Hebrew, they became even quieter; and Paul went on: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up here in Jerusalem as a student of Gamaliel. I received strict instruction in the Law of our ancestors and was just as dedicated to God as are all of you who are here today. I persecuted to the death the people who followed this Way. I arrested men and women and threw them into prison. The High Priest and the whole Council can prove that I am telling the truth. I received from them letters written to fellow-Jews in Damascus, so I went there to arrest these people and bring them back in chains to Jerusalem to be punished.
As I was travelling and coming near Damascus, about midday a bright light from the sky flashed suddenly round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute,’ he said to me. The men with me saw the light, but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I asked, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ and the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything that God has determined for you to do. I was blind because of the bright light, and so my companions took me by the hand and led me into Damascus.
In that city was a man named Ananias, a religious man who obeyed our Law and was highly respected by all the Jews living there. He came to me, stood by me, and said, ‘Brother Saul, see again!’ At that very moment I saw again and looked at him. He said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see his righteous Servant, and to hear him speaking with his own voice. For you will be a witness for him to tell everyone what you have seen and heard. And now, why wait any longer? Get up and be baptized and have your sins washed away by praying to him.
I went back to Jerusalem, and while I was praying in the Temple, I had a vision in which I saw the Lord, as he said to me, ‘Hurry and leave Jerusalem quickly, because the people here will not accept your witness about me.’ ‘Lord,’ I answered, ‘they know very well that I went to the synagogues and arrested and beat those who believe in you. And when your witness Stephen was put to death, I myself was there, approving of his murder and taking care of the cloaks of his murderers.’ ‘Go,’ the Lord said to me, ‘for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
The people listened to Paul until he said this; but then they started shouting at the top of their voices, “Away with him! Kill him! He’s not fit to live!” They were screaming, waving their clothes and throwing dust up in the air. The Roman commander ordered his men to take Paul into the fort, and he told them to whip him in order to find out why the Jews were screaming like this against him. But when they had tied him up to be whipped, Paul said to the officer standing there, “Is it lawful for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried for any crime?” When the officer heard this, he went to the commander and asked him, “What are you doing? That man is a Roman citizen!” So the commander went to Paul and asked him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes,” answered Paul. The commander said, “I became one by paying a large amount of money.” “But I am one by birth,” Paul answered. At once the men who were going to question Paul drew back from him; and the commander was frightened when he realised that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had put him in chains. The commander wanted to find out for certain what the Jews were accusing Paul of; so the next day he had Paul’s chains taken off and ordered the chief priests and the whole Council to meet. Then he took Paul and made him stand before them.
Well done, for sticking with me during this reading as it’s quite a long one but breaking it down didn’t seem right as we would lose the momentum of the story and as you will have discovered the plan didn’t quite work out, did it?
As we find Paul’s time of purification coming to an end, he is recognised in the Temple by Jews from Asia, probably Ephesus and they obviously believed the rumours that were going around. So they stirred up the crowd saying that Paul had been teaching against the Law of Moses and the people of Israel, also against the Temple. Not only that but they said that he had defiled the Temple by taking a Gentile into the places where Gentiles were not allowed. Apparently they had got this into their heads because they recognised Trophimus who came from Ephesus but it wasn’t true. As we can often do they had put two and two together and made five.
Well you can imagine what an uproar it caused, Luke writes that confusion spread but I suspect that was putting it mildly and the outcome was that Paul is seized by the crowd and dragged out of the Temple. Now this isn’t the first time Paul has been in danger however it seems that without the intervention of the commander of the Roman troops (Claudius Lysias), who was alerted to the disturbance, this would have been the end of Paul and his mission because the crowd were already giving him a beating. The arrival of the commander brought the beating to a pause and to save any further trouble he promptly arrests Paul and puts him in chains. After this he wants to know what’s going on but he couldn’t make any sense of what the crowd were saying so he decides to take Paul to the fort and question him. However this didn’t prove to be easy as the crowd were still after Paul’s blood and wanted him dead. At the steps the soldiers have to carry Paul to get through the mob and just before he enters the fort Paul asks the commander if he may speak. Apparently it seems the commander is surprised by Paul’s use of the Greek language because he had already slotted him into the role of an Egyptian revolutionary who was causing trouble a while ago. Again this shows us that we have to be careful that we don’t assume something about another person without knowing the facts because very often we can be wrong about them. On hearing that Paul is a Jew he allows him to speak to the crowd. Paul motions to the people to listen and then speaks in his own defense to them as a fellow Israelite in Hebrew which obviously surprised them and quietens them down even more, then he shares his background, how he used to be a persecutor of the people who follow Jesus. He backs this up by saying the High Priest and Council are his witnesses. He goes on to tell them about his journey to Damascus and what happened on the way there and the mission he was given by Jesus in the vision he received. All seemed to be going well until he mentions the details of his mission which was to the Gentiles, at which point the crowd turn nasty again and began shouting for his death.
The commander at this point orders Paul to be taken into the fort, obviously thinking that this would contain the situation for the moment. He orders that Paul be whipped to establish why the Jews hated him so much. Now my 21st century brain has a question here because I wondered why it was necessary for Paul to be whipped to obtain an answer. It seems to me that he would have told them anyway without being whipped because he had nothing to hide. So I went to one of my trusted theologians – John Stott – and he writes, ‘that this ghastly ordeal was the standard way of extracting information from prisoners’, as simple as that.
Anyway just before the whipping begins Paul asks a question of the officer in charge which is: “Is it lawful to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t been tried for any crime?” My thoughts stray to a previous time when Paul was whipped but didn’t divulge his Roman citizenship until after the beating had happened and he was in prison and I just wonder if he remembers this too. Obviously the officer must have believed him or at least given him the benefit of the doubt because he takes this information to the commander. The commander then turns up to get confirmation from Paul, saying that he had to pay a lot of money to become a citizen of Roman and then Paul seems to top that by saying he was actually born a citizen of Rome. Well the outcome was that Paul got out of his whipping but not his chains which were only removed the next day when he stood before the chief priests and whole council who had been summoned by the commander. It seems the commander is determined to get to the bottom of the problem between this man Paul and the Jewish authorities, not for their benefit I would think but certainly for his own as he wouldn’t have wanted any further disruptions or riots. We leave Paul this week on the point of speaking to his fellow countrymen so come back next week and find out what he said and what happened then.
Today Lord, we give thanks for our fathers, even the ones who have not been the best sort. Help us to find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have fallen short of being a loving dad and not to let their shortcomings cloud or damage our lives any further. We thank you for the loving dads and those who have been like fathers to us, who have nurtured us and loved us just as you do. We ask that you bless them all. Amen
God bless Rev Sue
Sunday 27th June 2021
When our hearts are full of joy, we praise God. When our hearts are sad, we look to him for comfort. When we need a friend, we rely on him, so wherever we are, however we feel, we trust in him.
Prayer: Lord of all we praise you and thank you that you love us and care for us. Help us to respond to that loving care by looking after others and seeing to their needs as you see to ours. Help us also to take care of your creation, the flora and the fauna that has its home in this world. Help us Lord to be the custodians and caretakers that you intended us to be so that your world will recover from the abuse of centuries and be as beautiful and abundant as it was in the beginning. Amen
This week we find Paul at the beginning of yet another speech, one that could have dire consequences for him because he is in a tricky situation, so let’s find out what happens.
Paul looked straight at the Council and said, “My fellow-Israelites! My conscience is perfectly clear about the way in which I have lived before God to this very day.” The High Priest Ananias ordered those who were standing close to Paul to strike him on the mouth. Paul said to him, “God will certainly strike you – you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the Law, yet you break the Law by ordering them to strike me!” The men close to Paul said to him, “You are insulting God’s High Priest!” Paul answered, “My fellow-Israelites, I did not know that he was the High Priest. The scripture says, ‘You must not speak evil of the ruler of your people.’”
When Paul saw that some of the group were Sadducees and the others were Pharisees, he called out in the Council, “Fellow-Israelites! I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees, I am on trial here because of the hope I have that the dead will rise to life!” As soon as he said this, the Pharisees and Sadducees started to quarrel, and the group was divided. (For the Sadducees say that people will not rise from death and that there are no angels or spirits; but the Pharisees believe in all three.)
The shouting became louder, and some of the teachers of the Law who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and protested strongly: “We cannot find anything wrong with this man! Perhaps a spirit or an angel really did speak to him!” The argument became so violent that the commander was afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces. So he ordered his soldiers to go down into the group, and get Paul away from them, and take him into the fort.
That night the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Don’t be afraid! You have given your witness for me here in Jerusalem, and you must also do the same in Rome.”
Paul addresses the Council, which is what the commander of the Roman troops wants him to do because he is hoping that he will finally get to the bottom of the issue with Paul and these Jewish folk. Paul begins by showing he is one of them as he says “Fellow-Israelites” and continues with “my conscience is perfectly clear about the way in which I have lived before God to this very day”.
Strangely enough my daily Bible readings for the last two weeks or so have been about Job, now I’m not sure if you know his story but he was a man who like Paul had a clear conscience with regards to his way of living before God. Although he had been struck down with illness and family tragedy he still professed to be innocent of any sin against God. In those times it was thought that if anything bad happened to you then it was because you had sinned, however Job was convinced he had not. A dialogue is then heard between him and his three best friends who to be honest weren’t a lot of help to him. They wanted him to confess his sin so that God could put things right with him and thought that because he wouldn’t that’s why he was still suffering. In the end he has a conversation with God about his situation, it’s an interesting if not somewhat difficult read but with some help from the bible reading notes a bit more understandable. Anyway I digress so let’s get back to Paul and his situation.
Paul saying his conscience was perfectly clear just got him a smack in the mouth on the orders of Ananias the High Priest, but why I wonder was the High Priest upset enough to do this. Well again I sought the wisdom of John Stott who says:
The most likely explanation is that Ananias understood Paul’s words as a claim that, though now a Christian, he was still a good Jew, having served God with a good conscience all his life (since, as well as before, his conversion), even ‘to this day’. This was certainly the claim Paul made in 2 Timothy 1:3. It seemed to Ananias the height of arrogance, even of blasphemy.
Then Paul retaliates with the reply of ‘God will certainly strike you – you whitewashed wall’. Well what can we think about that? Certainly it doesn’t seem to fit with the instruction of Jesus to turn the other cheek or what Paul had written previously about ‘when we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it’. Still we can all lose our tempers at times and maybe this is what Paul did however I still didn’t understand the bit about the whitewashed wall until again I went to John Stott. He reminded me that Paul’s eyesight was known to be poor and therefore maybe all he could see was a figure up against the wall and probably couldn’t make out who the person was who had instigated the physical assault on him. So it was only when he was made aware that he was insulting God’s High Priest that he then says; ‘My fellow-Israelites, I did not know that he was the High Priest and goes on to repeat scripture when he said ‘You must not speak evil of the ruler of your people.’ I wonder if Paul is again showing his knowledge of scripture and embedding the fact that he is very familiar with the Law.
The narrative then switches on to a group of Pharisees and Sadducees; they are Jews who have different opinions and understanding of some things, in particular the resurrection of the dead, angels and spirits; and Paul appeals to them giving his credentials saying: “Fellow-Israelites! I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees (obviously it runs in the family). I am on trial here because of the hope I have that the dead will rise to life!”
It seems to me that what Paul does here is open up the continuing quarrel between them, however commentary writers agree that Paul was genuinely concerned with doctrine and believed that the resurrection was fundamental to Christianity, just as we should be if we call ourselves Christians, because without that belief our hope in Christ becomes just another lost cause.
As you can see it got very animated and loud until some of the Pharisees stood up and said; “We cannot find anything wrong with this man! Perhaps a spirit or an angel really did speak to him!” This then turns into a red rag to a bull moment and as the argument becomes violent the commander is forced to send his soldiers to get Paul and take him once again into the safety of the fort.
I don’t know what Paul was thinking about as he probably reflected on the day and pondered on what would happen tomorrow however that night the Lord appears to him and gives him words of comfort, “Don’t be afraid! You have given your witness for me here in Jerusalem, and you must also do the same in Rome. However the Jews weren’t finished with him yet and next week there is another plan afoot.
Help us Lord to know your truths and to have them embedded within us. Regardless of what others may say or believe help us to only follow you and your teaching. Never let us forget your death and more importantly your resurrection, which gave us the sure hope of eternal life. Amen
God bless Rev Sue