November 23, 2014
Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”
They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our peoplewho have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”
Growing up in small town America, it was always a big deal when we went to the city. With Dumas, Arkansas, in the rearview mirror the anticipation of seeing the great metropolis, Little Rock, began. There was a particular place on the far outskirts of the city where we would crest the last hill obscuring our view. We had a contest among my sisters and I. It consisted of who would see Little Rock first. At the first and slightest glimpse of the skyline we would shout, “I see Little Rock!” Despite the fact we usually fought the rest of the way into the city as to who won, it is a great memory.
I sense this was something of what it must have been like for Paul, albeit in a bit different spirit, as he crested the last hill and caught his first glimpse of the great city of Rome. Paul carried this city in his heart and prayers for years now. He had tried to get there multiple times and been prevented. Finally, he arrived; an imprisoned apostle (that’s almost as big an oxy moron as “dead church”) in a procession of criminals likely on their way to death.
Remember what he had written to these believers in his now celebrated letter.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. Romans 1:8-13.
Paul, the citizen of Rome, had a special burden to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God in this famed city.
It brings to mind the heart of Jesus over the city of Jerusalem when he said,
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37.
I imagine Paul looking over the breath taking expanse of the city of Rome with the longing of the love of God, and declaring with humble audacity, just under his breath, “Jesus is Lord of Rome!”
As I remember those days long ago when we shouted “I see Little Rock,” I’m asking myself have I really “seen” the city where I presently live. It makes me want to go out to the outskirts of town and find a good vantage point and look over the place and ask for God to open the eyes of my heart to really “see” the place in a fresh way in the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m really a “nobody” in the scheme of this city and yet I’m an ambassador of the Kingdom of God. I think this is the beginning of what it might look like to start taking apostolic responsibility.
How about you and the city or town where you live? I’m praying for the Holy Spirit to rise up within you with a emboldened Kingdom imagination to do such a thing where you live.
COME HOLY SPIRIT!
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