For an introduction to this series, click here.
June 25, 2007
This chapter mostly records Paul's speech to the Jews at Jerusalem. Paul had them silent for a while, especially when he started speaking to them in Aramaic, the home language of the Jews, and not in Greek. Paul basically recounted most of his life: how he was a free-born Jew of the Diaspora from Tarsus (the Diaspora were the Jews who were scattered around the world after the Babylonian Captivity). But he was sent to Jerusalem to learn from Gamaliel, one of the foremost rabbis of the time. Actually there are details about Paul's life in this speech that we do not learn from any other source.
Paul tells about how he saw the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was trying to persecute the Christians, and Jesus stopped him and told him he was really persecuting Him, the God he was professing to serve. Even at this point the crowd seems compliant and listening.
But Paul gets in trouble when he says the Lord told him, "Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles." (22:21, ESV) At this the crowd was incensed - yes, it's fair to call most of the people here racists - and began to call for him to be put to death. The soldiers in the barracks grabbed him and pulled him inside the building, partially for his own safety and partially because they were mad at him for making an uproar and were about to beat him. But once again Paul claimed his Roman citizenship and was able to get out of his beating.
That's really all there is to this chapter. I know it's kind of short today.
June 26, 2007
Paul was brought before the Sanhedrin, a council he was no doubt being groomed to be a part of before he met the Lord Jesus. As soon as he made his first statement, "Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day," (23:1) he got in trouble. The high priest commanded Paul's escorts to smack him in the mouth, and Paul responded, "God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?" (23:3) Then Paul quickly backtracks when he realizes the high priest said that, and the law commanded not to speak evil of the leader of the people. You would think Paul would know, if not who the high priest was, then where the high priest sat. Maybe they didn't have assigned seats in the Sanhedrin, but that seems unlikely. The next section is funny:
"Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, 'Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.' And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees' party stood up and contended sharply, 'We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?' And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks." (23:6-10, ESV)
Paul knew these people. He knew they acted all high and mighty and pious, but they did not trust each other at all. I'm sure Paul thought it was funny when the Pharisees started justifying him to the Sadducees, when they all had come together to condemn him.
The next section tells about how 40 men in Jerusalem took a vow that they would not eat or drink anything until they killed Paul. Paul's nephew found out about it and told the Roman tribune about it, who immediately had Paul transferred to Caesarea. I guess those 40 men all died. There's a detail most people don't realize is there: Paul had a sister and a nephew. That's neat.
The rest of the chapter is a letter from the tribune at Jerusalem, Claudius, to Felix, the governor at Caesarea. Caesarea was the Roman capital of Palestine. The Romans built the city largely to mock the Jews and intentionally put lots of statues of idols and false gods and the emperor in the city. Of course all these things offended the Jews terribly. How Luke got a hold of this letter we are not told.