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Posts Tagged ‘Jews’

Verse 24: “And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.”

Here we are, at the end of 2017. Tomorrow is January 1, 2018. Like most folks, I look back on this year reflectively. There are good memories and accomplishments; there are also some memories and incidents that I’d rather forget (and hope are not repeated in the new year!) Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a French critic, journalist, and novelist, once stated that “the more things change, the more they stay the same” (this is a loose translation; I referenced this from the Wikipedia entry on Karr: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Baptiste_Alphonse_Karr). Sometimes you think things will be different, only to see that they still turn out the same way.

Paul must have felt some sense of this. After ministering on the isle of Malta, he finally makes it Rome. Granted some freedom to stay in a house while awaiting trial, he calls the local Jewish leaders to him and updates them on recent events as well as telling them the Good News. If you or I were Paul, we might be tempted to think, “well, this time will be different. This isn’t the local mob of Jews I’ve had to deal with. I’m in Rome now; the outcome will be much better.”

But what happened? The same result as before: some were persuaded and believed, but some disbelieved. It can be disheartening to keep trying over and over and yet feel rejected, but this didn’t stop Paul. He kept preaching the Gospel wherever he was and with whoever he was with. We should have this same attitude as well. God didn’t call us to save people to Him; only Jesus Christ can save people’s souls. God commands us, as Christians, to tell the Good News to as many as we can. We’re just messengers; we can’t make people accept Christ…but God takes the seeds that are sown in His name, and takes it from there.

So as we conclude this study of Acts, remember to be faithful messengers in Jesus’s name…telling the Good News of Jesus Christ. We’ll resume the studying in a few weeks with a series called “Jesus: I Am the (fill-in-the-blank)” It’s a study of some of the analogies that Jesus taught His disciples to better explain Who He is. These analogies are just as important to us years later, as well.

May God bless you this coming new year!

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Verses 22-23: “Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come–that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

Want to get someone’s attention? State that you are saying something or doing something by the authority of a very respected historical figure (now, don’t do this flippantly!) In most cases, it’ll give the audience pause and consideration of you, especially if your audience respects the figure by whose authority you have referenced. Preachers and judges alike often use the phrase “by the power invested in my by…” when referencing their validation of their authority.

Paul here is continuing his defense before Agrippa by telling his own biography of how he used to persecute Christians. He continues with the details of his conversion by Jesus Christ on the Damascus road; he sums up the narrative of his history by telling Agrippa that he was “not disobedient to the heavenly vision”, but went on to proclaim the Good News everywhere. He declared it those locally around them, then hit the road to witness abroad. Again, he justifies what he is doing; he presents that the Jews have tried to kill him over this. And what he does is “saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come”. In effect, you could say Paul is saying that “they want to kill me over the very things Moses and the prophets said…so what have I done wrong?” No good Jew would go against the teaching of Moses and the Old Testament prophets.

So, Paul has set up his foundation for his defense; now he has built up the walls to fortify his argument. Get ready as he puts the roof on next!

More to come.

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Verse 1: “Now when Festus had come to the province, after three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem.”

As a young boy who grew up watching TV Westerns, I knew of only one man named Festus: that was the deputy Festus Haggen, played wonderfully by Ken Curtis, on the TV series Gunsmoke. Though illiterate and sometimes ornery, Festus was always a loyal deputy to Marshall Matt Dillon (James Arness). Many times, we enjoyed the “friendly arguments” between Festus and Doc Adams; you could consider them the Old West version of Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy of Star Trek. Riding a mule instead of a horse, Festus always was a memorable character on that show. (I actually got to meet Ken Curtis once at a rodeo years ago and had my picture taken with him; he was a friendly Christian man who also sang Gospel and country-western songs very well. He was just as personable in real life as he was on TV).

The Festus we encounter here didn’t ride in on a mule, but rode in as the new governor of the region, replacing Felix. Like any new politician, he attempts to get to know the local authorities, so the Jews take it upon themselves to cajole Festus to send Paul back to Jerusalem for trial. Of course, we know they will try to set up the ambush again to kill Paul. Once again, Paul answers the charges against him with “not guilty”, and the Jews’ complaints, “which they could not prove”, turn this circle of events back on itself.

So what happens next? “Second verse, like the first”? Not in this case…you might say, Paul has had enough!

More to come.

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Verse 27: “But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.”

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost,
for want of a horse the knight was lost,
for want of a knight the battle was lost.
So it was a kingdom was lost – all for want of a nail.
JLA: The Nail

In the DC comic book special, JLA: The Nail, an alternate tale of the beginning of the Justice League is told. Most everyone who has ever heard of Superman knows his origin: rocketed from the dying planet, Krypton, his spaceship nearly crashes into the travelling truck of Jonathan and Martha Kent. The Kents adopt the baby, and their parenting guidance paves the way for Superman’s moral code. In this story, (the background of which can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JLA:_The_Nail_series ), a nail causes Jonathan Kent to have a flat tire, delaying their fated rendezvous with Kal-El’s spaceship. Instead, an Amish couple find and raise Kal-El in the isolation of their community, thus altering the familiar storyline of Superman and the Justice League.

In the passage today, it would seem Paul has hit a nail. Even though he has conversations with Governor Felix several times, reasoning and witnessing to him, Felix is afraid and keeps sending Paul away. The passage evens states that he hopes Paul would bribe him to let him go. So after all the trial and testimony, trying to do the Jews a political favor on his way out the door…Felix leaves Paul in custody.

Some might see this as a nail altering the story and mission of Paul; here he is, stalled in house arrest at Caesarea. Not so; remember, God had promised Paul he would see Rome as His missionary. What may seem like a delay, simply was God’s plan for Paul to tell the Good News to even more officials. Enter the new Governor Festus and later King Agrippa. The Kingdom here is not lost for want of a nail…it is held in place by divine direction of Jesus Christ.

Something to think about.

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Verses 22-24: “So the commander let the young man depart, and commanded him, “Tell no one that you have revealed these things to me.” And he called for two centurions, saying, “Prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at the third hour of the night; and provide mounts to set Paul on, and bring him safely to Felix the governor.””

The official last regular episode of the TV show Little House on the Prairie was subtitled The Last Farewell. To sum up the plot (to the best of my recollection…this was some years ago!), a land/railroad baron had obtained legal ownership of the land of Walnut Grove. The townsfolk were distraught to find out that all they had worked for and built up would soon belong to this land/railroad baron. Though some were ready to fight, most didn’t want to see bloodshed, but the baron was bringing the local cavalry to evict them. In a meeting on Easter weekend, the townsfolk fought back the only way they knew. One of the recent new citizens had a wagonload of dynamite, and they all decided to blow up the buildings, which they still owned. In a bitter ending to the episode, you saw the residents blow up their buildings, from Laura and Almanzo’s house to the Olesens’ mercantile store. Only the Little House and the school/church still stood, because Reverend Alden couldn’t bring himself to destroy God’s house (and the townsfolk understood). When the weekend ended, the cavalry, the baron, and leaders from other communities (that the baron was in the process of trying to get their land too) rode back into town to see it demolished. The baron was furious, demanding the commander to arrest them, but Charles Ingalls was quick to point out that the baron owned the land, not the buildings…he was free to rebuild. Of course, the baron was upset that he would have to fork over a lot of cost to use the land with wrecked buildings on it. More so, the leaders from the other towns threatened that he would find their towns in the same shape if he bought their land with his schemes. Reverend Alden tearfully prayed that “thank the Lord, Walnut Grove’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain”. The show ended with all the citizens travelling out of the destroyed town, filing past the Little House on their way.

Somehow this scene came to mind when reading how Claudius Lysias, the Roman commander, decided to deal with the murder-minded Jews. He had had enough, so after dismissing Paul’s nephew cordially, he had two centurions assemble one huge military force to handle any battle…all to make sure that Paul was escorted to the Roman governor Felix. He knew that the Jews wouldn’t be foolish enough to try any shenanigans on the governor’s grounds. Plus, Felix could hear for himself what the charges were by having Paul AND his accusers lay out their cases. Finally, it also relieved him of the headache of having to deal with this dilemma, I believe. This was how Lysias “fought back” in the only way he could; he ensured the Roman law was followed but steered clear of Jewish politics. Amazing how God works, isn’t it?

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the “gray areas” in our society. Lots of folks on both sides argue back and forth, stating their cases and making their schemes. What we should do as Christians is do as Jesus instructs us. God’s Word has all the answers; we use them and calling on our “governor”, or should I say our High Priest, Jesus Christ, for His power and His wisdom in navigating murky waters.

Something to think about.

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Verses 10-11, 16: “Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks. But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”…so when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their ambush, he went and entered the barracks and told Paul.”

The following is a fictitious conversation:

Soldier: Sir?
Commander: What is it, soldier?
Soldier: Sir, there’s another disturbance amongst the Jews.
Commander: (sigh) Now what? Let their ruling council handle it.
Soldier: Sir, that is the problem; the disturbance is coming from within their council’s chambers.
Commander: I simply do not understand these Jews! I sent Paul down there this morning for clarification…
Soldier: Sir, that’s just it…their fighting over Paul, and he’s in danger!
Commander: Not a prisoner on my watch, he won’t be! Take soldiers and get him out of there, by force if necessary!
Soldier: At once, sir!
Commander: (to himself) I just don’t see what the uproar is about. Who IS this man?

I often remember that line being used by Major Hochstetter of the SS on the TV comedy, Hogan’s Heroes. He was one of the antagonists that Colonel Hogan would have to outwit. Often, Hogan would just waltz right into Colonel Klink’s office, with Hochstetter stridently demanding “WHO IS THIS MAN?”

Once again, God uses the Romans to rescue Paul. I did some background reading in the Holman New Testament Commentary on Acts (pg. 388-389); now, of course, the conversation probably didn’t occur like I typed it, but it was indicative of what the Romans thought of the Jews. They detested them. And yet, the commander, Claudius Lysias, found nothing against the law that Paul had done. He couldn’t see what the fuss was about; but it was his job to keep the peace and the law (and protect his Roman prisoner!) So, when word of the plot by the forty Jews to kill Paul came to the attention of Paul’s nephew, he came to Paul. Paul sent him straight to the commander. This leads to a most interesting turn of events.

You or I would probably worry about what’s next. But when God Himself “stood by [Paul]” and guaranteed that he would live to witness in Rome…well, what better reassurance can you have?

More to come!

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Verse 21: “Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’”

“God has sent me to minister and to witness to the Nazis!”

How would you feel if you heard a fellow American say that? Confused? Angry, upset? Fearful?

You could about fill in the blank of “to the ____” with a group or individuals you felt strongly against. I remember back after 9-11-01, our church had a prayer vigil. Our pastor asked deacons to pray for specific groups. And he wanted someone to pray for Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. I chose that one, because I knew it would be through only God’s love and His strength that I could pray for enemies who did such a heinous crime. God reminded me though…isn’t that what Paul was before his conversion? An enemy who killed Christians?

Here, his fellow Jews are in an uproar. “Minister to Gentiles? WHAT? Was he crazy? The Gentiles??? Away with him!” Needless to say, without God’s intervention, Paul probably would’ve been martyred that day. In this case, we see an interesting form of rescue. Whom did God use to save Paul? To paraphrase that great secret agent, Maxwell Smart: “wouldja believe…the Romans?”

More to come!

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Verses 1-2: “”Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.” And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent.”

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

As Christians, we all claim sentiments to the meaning of this old hymn. Paul, probably more so than anybody, lived this hymn almost verbatim. Here he is now, laying out his defense, by telling the mob where he came from, how he persecuted Christians, how he was saved, and how he lived and preached for Christ now. Just the story, the witness, of Paul is incredible. Maybe the mob might have been calmed had he left it at that…but Paul must tell them all the story, of how God has called him to spread the Gospel to not just the Jews, but the Gentiles, too. In the next few verses, this is where circumstances take an interesting turn.

More to come.

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Verses 10-11: “And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'””

Larry Trask was the son of Bolivar Trask, the man who created the mutant-hunting robots known as Sentinels. His guardian, Judge Chalmers, had sought to shield the boy from the nightmarish legacy his father had created. However, in an Avengers storyline which culminated in issue #104, the mutant speedster Quicksilver compelled Larry’s help in trying to rescue his sister Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, from a band of Sentinels that had returned from orbit around the sun. As we find out in the storyline, Larry himself is a mutant, with the ability to see snatches of the future: and his visions showed the Avengers suffering defeat in combat with the Sentinels, the Sentinels launching a solar flare to wipe out the human race, and finally darkness, which Larry assumed to be the end of Earth.

During the final fight, it was revealed that the Sentinel leader, Number 2, had evolved into a mutant being himself. It was his plan to sterilize the human race with the solar flare, thus eventually wiping them out. As the other Sentinels attacked Number 2 (for their programming was to capture or to destroy mutants), it resulted in the mutual destruction of all the Sentinels. In falling like giant tenpins, one of them fell on Trask, thus killing him. Thus, Larry’s last vision was not of Earth’s destruction, but the blackness of his own death.

Agabus was delivering a vision shown to him by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s friends were anxious for his safety, for he still was determined to go to Jerusalem. This prophetic declaration must have alarmed the crowd even more. Yet, Paul was undeterred. He told them, “look, I’m not only ready to be bound, but to die for Jesus if necessary.” His friends were genuinely concerned for them, but they knew this was the Lord’s will.

How would you feel if you knew your future? How would you feel if you saw danger for yourself? Do you face a test today which challenges your safety or your future? If the test and mission is from God, have no fear for He is with you. If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then you need not fear, though fear is a natural feeling…Jesus knows what the future holds…He’s been there…and He’s waiting to lead you through it!

Something to think about.

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Verses 30-32: “And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater. Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.”

War Eagle! Roll Tide! Go Dawgs! Avengers Assemble! It’s Clobberin’ Time! Hulk Smash! Hey, Rube!

What do all these phrases have in common? For the most part, they are colorful rallying cries or battle phrases. The last one, “Hey, Rube!” was especially used as a warning cry by carnival workers in years long past to rally other carnies to their aid if one was threatened by an outsider. In most cases, these phrases mean something to those that know them, and know what it means when they’re yelled out.

In this section of Acts 19, the rallying cry used by the pagan Ephesians was “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” Demetrius and his union of fellow silversmiths had stirred up a hornet’s nest of a mob, with everyone piling into the amphitheater in Ephesus. Bordering on a full-scale riot, there were others who came as well, just to see what the hubbub was about. The Ephesian disciples, fearing for Paul’s safety, wouldn’t let him in. What I find incredulous was that, with so many people packed into the theater area, “most of them did not know why they had come together.” Could you imagine our modern-day media reporters trying to conduct interviews with the locals there? (“So why are you here, sir?” “Uh…I don’t know.”) Even the Jews opposed to Paul tried to push Alexander to the platform to offer a defense (and distance themselves from Paul), but by this time, any non-Diana worshipper was treated the same. The Scriptures tell us that most of the mob were yelling “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” for almost two hours (sounds like modern day football games or recent political rallies, take your pick!)

So how was Paul rescued from this predicament? The answer shouldn’t be surprising, if you know the power of the Lord!

More to come…

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