Text: Acts 22:30-23:11
For ears to hear, eyes to see the inbreaking Kingdom
For those caught by their rage, indifference or calculation
For victims of mob violence
WITH PAUL TAKEN INTO CUSTODY, there are several opportunities for people to hear the wondrous message of salvation that he carries. One occurs with the crowd; one among the Romans; one among the Sanhedrin. Let us look at each in turn.
The clamor the crowds raise when the story goes around that Paul has defiled the Temple means that he will not receive a good hearing. The spirit of a mob shuts down the chance to hear reasonable talk, and, like a wildfire, the actions of a mob can only be contained or waited out. Notice, for instance, back in verse 21:40 how Paul tries to talk to the crowd in their own tongue instead of common Greek; they are stilled for a moment, but their rage returns. We should be wary of fanning our anger, because anger does not give space for God’s work to advance in us (James 1:19-20).
Then there is the conversation between Paul, the soldiers and the tribune. Here we see indifference, the ennui that comes from thinking that we know everything. “Been there, done that” is the motto of those whose spirits are too dulled by life to notice the new flower, the fresh bud breaking through the spiritual concrete that paves everything into grey sameness. Ears stoppered and eyes filled with any available distraction, the apathetic miss the joy of God’s Message because they think they know it already too well (Isaiah 42:20).
Lastly, in the encounter with the Sanhedrin, we see how Paul uses the theological and political divide between the Sadducees and the Pharisees to redirect their focus. One might think that among such a learned, sober group that Paul would at least get a hearing, that they would adopt the attitude of the philosophers that long-ago day on Mars Hill. But their die has already been cast, and their calculations mean that this Paul, like Jesus before him, must go. They focus on governance, self-preservation and maintaining the status quo, which means that the breaking in of the kingdom must be ignored, for they find it foolishness, as Paul himself notes (1 Cor 3:18-20).
In our own day, we are all tempted by anger, by indifference, and by shrewd calculation that masks itself as wisdom. We need not succumb! Let Paul’s words be our own: “I live before God with a good conscience,” for we have been brought into the Kingdom by the work of God’s Son.
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks