Today’s Tasting: Acts 24-26
In these chapters, Paul remains in Roman custody as the Jewish high priests continue their persecution of him. Paul has several trials where he has to continually plead his innocence and defend his faith.
Acts 24: Paul was brought to Felix, a Roman governor in Caesarea, for a trial. Felix hears Paul’s plea, however, he is remanded to prison for two years in the hopes of extorting money from him.
Acts 25: Felix was succeeded by Porius Festus who Paul was also presented to in court. The Jewish leaders brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them. Paul continues to make his defense, saying, “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” [Acts 25:8] Festus pushes the subject and asks if Paul is willing to go to Jerusalem to stand trial. Paul “appeals to Caesar”.
Festus consults with King Agrippa about taking Paul’s case to the Emperor. Festus does not believe that Paul should be put to death over the accusations.
25 I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. 27 For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.” [Acts 25: 25-27]
Acts 26: Paul appeals to King Agrippa and asks for his patience while he makes his defense against the accusations of the Jews. He acknowledges that he, too, did not believe in the name Jesus of Nazareth and that he even was part of persecuting the Lord’s people until, one day, he had a vision from heaven. He sees a light from heaven, falls to the ground and hears the Lord’s voice.
15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”
Paul’s audience, after hearing this, think he is out of his mind. Agrippa scolds Paul and says he is not convinced to become Christian. Agrippa agrees that Paul did not do anything that deserves death, but says to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” [Acts 26:36]
Today’s Nourishment: Although this seems a dark time for Paul, it is the beginning of his ministry as a prisoner of Rome. Paul knows that this is God’s plan and continues his missionary work.
“Paul’s custody setting in Rome, like those custody settings that precede it in Acts, appears as a place of opportunity and not one of complete incapacitation. Again, attention to what Paul is able to accomplish overshadows any suggestions of hardship that he must endure in his custody. This appearance of ease is not testimony to Pauls’ personal charisma or the fortitude of his will but the reflection of the centrality of proclamation in Acts and the ways in which the accounts of Paul’s faithfulness can transform the perception of a setting from a place of discouragement, suffering, oppression or limitation into one of occasion for bold witness … Paul’s custody settings emerge not as defeats or obstacles to be overcome but as opportunities to be seized or challenge’s to be negotiated.”
- Locating Paul: Places of Custody as Narrative Settings in Acts 21-28 by Matthew L. Skinne
Paul is such a fantastic example to us of absolute and undoubting faith and confident perseverance! I am continually inspired by Paul’s testimony and the circumstances that he shares it in. He is facing outrageous charges, the possibility of death and imprisonment, yet he declares his faith in God over and over again – regardless of his disagreeing audience.
With saddening recent events across the seas and even here in the United States where Christians face persecutions and killings, I can’t help but think, what would I do in the same situation? Would I be able to have the same unmoving faith as Paul when faced with accusations and even death? Would I be able to persevere under such hostile circumstances – and know God will protect and provide for me?
Lord, we pray for your guidance today. We pray that our obstacles can be overcome and opportunities to praise your name seized. Walk with us so that we can be your missionaries – wherever we find ourselves and whoever the audience may be – we need your loving words. You are our Savior and Redeemer! In your name, we thank you – amen!
Salt Lake City, UT