devotion 8-31-15

Acts of the Apostles 24

Five days later the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and an attorney, a certain Tertullus, and they reported their case against Paul to the governor. 2When Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying: “Your Excellency, because of you we have long enjoyed peace, and reforms have been made for this people because of your foresight. 3We welcome this in every way and everywhere with utmost gratitude. 4But, to detain you no further, I beg you to hear us briefly with your customary graciousness. 5We have, in fact, found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6He even tried to profane the temple, and so we seized him. 8By examining him yourself you will be able to learn from him concerning everything of which we accuse him.” 9The Jews also joined in the charge by asserting that all this was true.

10When the governor motioned to him to speak, Paul replied: “I cheerfully make my defense, knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation. 11As you can find out, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. 12They did not find me disputing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd either in the synagogues or throughout the city. 13Neither can they prove to you the charge that they now bring against me. 14But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets. 15I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. 16Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people. 17Now after some years I came to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifices. 18While I was doing this, they found me in the temple, completing the rite of purification, without any crowd or disturbance. 19But there were some Jews from Asia—they ought to be here before you to make an accusation, if they have anything against me. 20Or let these men here tell what crime they had found when I stood before the council, 21unless it was this one sentence that I called out while standing before them, ‘It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’”

22But Felix, who was rather well informed about the Way, adjourned the hearing with the comment, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” 23Then he ordered the centurion to keep him in custody, but to let him have some liberty and not to prevent any of his friends from taking care of his needs. 24Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus. 25And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.” 26At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul, and for that reason he used to send for him very often and converse with him. 27After two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and since he wanted to grant the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.

It is a beautiful morning today – it seems we appreciate the sunshine more after a storm! We are grateful that we were spared this storm; Erika was little more than a series of thunderstorms with some hard rain yesterday! We finished our journey with Paul in the sermon series yesterday, but that involved skipping a lot of detail, which we will pick up here.

Today, we find Paul is still with the Roman governor in Caesarea; the Jewish leaders who wished to kill him have hired a lawyer. Tertulius, the lawyer, begins with a speech to flatter the governor. He goes on to accuse Paul of being an agitator and a ringleader of an unruly group disturbing the peace. I recently read, “Go Set a Watchman”, a story about the 1950’s in the South – the time and place where I grew up. In that day and place, any black person (the actual word used began with an “n”) who objected to being treated as a second-class citizen was called an “agitator” and a “ringleader” of an unruly group. How history does repeat! Obviously, those trying to protect the “status quo” against Paul and his “unruly group” called Christians were on the wrong side of history. God had begun a movement that they would be unable to stop, regardless of what happened to Paul.

But Paul makes his defense, and he also flatters the governor – that was, apparently, the proper thing to do in a trial in those days. He gives his side of the events leading up to his arrest, saying that they have no reason to charge him with anything. He is a believer, a follower of “the Way” and was peacefully worshipping in the temple when they attacked him. Felix, however, does not make a decision. Felix was a politician, as well as a soldier. He was well informed about the things going on in Judea, and was aware that Paul had brought a large sum of money to Jerusalem; he did not want to anger the Jews, but was hoping this whole thing would blow over and someone would offer him a bribe and he could release Paul quietly. In this way he kept Paul imprisoned in Caesarea for some 2 years, although with freedom to have his friends visit . He also found Paul’s conversation interesting and often talked with him.

Finally, Felix was replaced by Festus as governor (honestly, I did not make up these names!), but Felix left Paul in prison. He would be Festus’ problem now!

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