October 20, 2014
The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”
As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”
When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”
The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes, I am,” he answered.
Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.”
“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.
Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
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.
As we make our way through the Acts of the Apostles keep in mind we are largely getting Luke’s take and point of view. He is telling it like he sees it. I say that not to diminish the text in the least but to point out we have additional “takes” in the New Testament. With the Gospels we get four inspired accounts. As Luke recounts this account of Paul’s journey I want us to keep in mind Paul’s account. There’s nothing like seeing apostolic history through the lens of the one making the history.
All these years later it’s too easy to miss the gravity of who Paul was, who he became, what he endured, what he accomplished and the nature of his relationship with Jesus.
As I noted yesterday, it’s a challenge to get an exact correspondence between Paul’s writings and journeys. Regardless of precision, Paul’s letters give us a sense of his developing insight, vision and day in day out mindset. Consider this word from his second letter to the Corinthians.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:7-8
Later on in the same letter, Paul, in an admittedly spirited recollection says it this way:
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:24-28
Go back and read that again– this time with feeling. ;0) Now juxtapose these words against the ones following:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. Philippians 3:7-8
Now I want to ask you and me three very challenging questions.
1. Is it possible for you and me to know Jesus in the way that Paul knew Jesus?
2. If so, would we want to? (Note the question– I’m not asking if we would want to endure what Paul endured)
3. If yes, what would that mean today– right now?
COME HOLY SPIRIT!
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