Acts: Paul in Jerusalem, Part 4

Read: Acts 22:30-23:22

The Roman commander is curious, so he arranged a meeting with the Sanhedrin, a mix of Sadducees and Pharisees, but this didn’t go well either. Once again, Paul was in the hands of the Romans for his own protection. Meanwhile, a group of Jews forms an alliance and a plot to kill Paul. This is the last part of Paul in Jerusalem. He’s transferred to Caesarea, then continues to move through the end of Acts until his final destination in Rome.

Luke provides these details as an account of Paul’s life. While this is interesting, I have to wonder why we read all of these details about Paul? At the end of Acts, well, it doesn’t actually end, s why tell us all these things without finishing the story? We’ll be in Acts 28 soon enough, so I’ll hold off on diving too deep at this point. As we read about Paul’s time in Jerusalem, then more about his captivity for the rest of his life, consider this: Paul continued to write letters and communicate with the churches he planted during all of these trials.

The Sanhedrin

The commander of the Roman guard needs to know what the fuss is all about.

The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. So the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them. Acts 22:30

Notice that the commander does not relinquish control. This is his meeting on his terms.

Paul’s first comments to the Sanhedrin set the tone for a short conversation.

Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Acts 23:1-2

Great! Punch Paul in the mouth for speaking. This is not going to go well. Paul doesn’t back down one iota. I wonder what “you whitewashed wall” would sound like in today’s vernacular. Actually, I don’t want to know. I couldn’t type the words anyway!

Paul backs down a notch when they inform him this is the high priest and changes his tone a bit. He explains he is a Pharisee from Pharisees and focuses on some of the key distinction between them and the Sadducees, most notably, the concept of the resurrection. The commentaries inform us that the Pharisees were in the minority in the Sanhedrin. Small in numbers, but with significant political clout. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection. Luke makes this clear in his parenthetical comment:

(The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.) Acts 23:8

Tensions begin to rise again, an uproar as Luke puts it. The Pharisees appear to be interested in Paul’s arguments, but I think this is purely from a political perspective. In my view, they’re trying to gain some upper ground on the Sadducees with regard to the resurrection. They begin to argue vigorously and the scene turns to chaos forcing the Romans to physically remove Paul.

As mentioned in the previous post, Jesus visits Paul in his captivity to encourage him:

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” Acts 23:11

The Plot to Kill Paul

The fuse was lit. Some of the Jews, at least forty, get together and form a conspiracy to end this discussion once and for all.

“We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.” Acts 23:14-15

The plot thickens from bad to worse. Fortunately, Paul’s nephew got wind of the plot and told Paul then the told the commander. The commander devised his own plan to relocate Paul and avoid more violence.

There’s no indication that the Romans were all that sympathetic to Paul. At least, in my opinion, it looks like they are simply acting as the governing authority in this situation. That’s not to say they weren’t moved by his words, but the actions here are consistent with a military occupation that is set on maintaining control.

Some Thoughts

Paul was rejected by those he trained with as a Pharisee and lived under the constant threat of murder, yet he continued to preach. I heard a Steven Furtick sermon the other day where he said something along the lines of the Romans chained Paul to the guards, but Paul consider that the guards were chained to him! At midnight they sang songs and all the prisoners’ chains were broken.

He never stopped preaching the Gospel. No matter what. In prison, sing songs and write letters. Through trial, isolation, separation, miles of travel, all the ups and downs, Paul just kept on going. Lord, I pray for this kind of focus, for this type of dedication to Your ministry. No matter what.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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