Monday, October 25, 2010

Once again with Paul.

Let me open with a welcome to my 2nd follower.  You know who you are, and I'm so excited to have you.

When we last left Paul, he was being held in a Roman garrison in Jerusalem...

In Acts 23:11, Jesus spoke to Paul saying, "Take Courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome."*  Did Paul wonder when? Did he have any idea how quickly God would act?  And God did act quickly.  That very night, Jews were plotting to kill Paul, and the Council was in on it.  No sooner had they hatched their plot than they were found out and thwarted.  Paul's nephew found out about the plot, and went immediately to Paul with his knowledge. 

Paul's interaction with the Romans holding him is very interesting to me.  In 17-19, "Paul called on of the centurions and said, "Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him."  So he [the centurion] took him [the nephew] and brought him to the tribune and said, "Paul, the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you as he has something to say to you."  The tribune took him [the nephew] by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, "What is it that you have to tell me?"*  The Romans heed Paul, both the centurion and the commander.  They take his words and wishes seriously.  This could be because they know Paul to be a free-born Roman citizen, but he is also a prisoner, currently of much lower social standing than say, the High Preist Ananias. But Paul is the man they heed, and he is ushered out of the city that very night.  Before the plotters can even put their plan into action.

The commander orders Paul's exodus amidst what I call "a magnificent display of Roman might." Two hundred seventy men-- soldiers, spearmen, and horsemen--escort this one little prisoner out of Jerusalem. I wonder, did the High Council hear of their departure?  Or did Ananias receive a missive from the commander to report to Caesarea to plead his case before Felix.  I picture Ananias with a piece of parchment crushed in his fist, an angry gleam in his eye.  That he, the High Priest of God's Chosen People should be summoned to the Court of this Gentile who calls himself a leader...  Am I endowing Ananias with a little too much venom?  I don't know.  I tend to think not since he was so willing to participate in a plot of murder, but maybe I am. 

In Chapter 24, The plot to kill Paul has failed.  It seems that the High Council has scrambled to put together a "legal team" to travel to Caesarea.  It would seem this was not the finest hour for either Ananias or Tertullus, the spokesman.  Paul, in his defense, calls them on their failure to produce witnesses to testify to their case, particularly the "Jews from Asia" who caused the original tumult so many days ago in the Temple. 

I love verse 22 "But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way [emphasis added], put them off, saying, "When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case."* It would seem that Felix was at least familiar enough with Christians to understand that they were doing nothing deserving of death.  So he allowed Paul some liberty as what we might call a "minimum security prisoner." Though he was self-serving enough to keep Paul in prison with an eye and ear toward the possiblity of filling his own coffers with bribe money from Paul, and toward pacifying the Jews.

*Today's Scripture from the English Standard Version

This seems a rather long post, but maybe they'll be shorter when I get the hang of this.

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