October 3, 2021
When People Can’t Forget Who You WERE
Acts 23:12-35 (NIV)12 The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”
16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.
17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him to the commander.
The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”
19 The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”
20 He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. 21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.”
22 The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”
Paul Transferred to Caesarea
23 Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen[a] to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. 24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.”
25 He wrote a letter as follows:
26 Claudius Lysias,
To His Excellency, Governor Felix:
27 This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. 29 I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. 30 When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.
31 So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris. 32 The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. 33 When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him. 34 The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will hear your case when your accusers get here.” Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.
DevotionWhat caused this uproar that would make the Sanhedrins cohort with forty Jewish men to plot to kill Paul? Paul’s journey from persecutor of Christians to preacher to the Gentiles is an unbelievable story. I am sure that those who received the brunt of his persecutions were skeptical of his conversion and those who were fellow Pharisees could never forgive his betrayal of some of the beliefs of his Jewish practices. Human nature gives us the inability to blindly consider and understand the reasons that our fellow humans turn from believing as we do. We are not capable of altering our misdeeds by ourselves. Only God is the master of change and can orchestrate the turnaround in our hearts and our lives. Only God can soften the hearts and minds of others to forgive us for our past indiscretions.
Paul is our example of God’s forgiveness and mercy. Once Paul’s life was changed, he never looked back. He was aware of those who couldn’t accept his conversion, but he didn’t dwell on it and let it become a barrier to his calling. He pressed forward with an urgency to share the good news using his intellect as a Pharisee; his empathy with his own Jewish people; and his unique ability to freely travel as a Roman Citizen. He could appeal to Jews because he had such a command of the Jewish law and yet his strength and calling was to the Gentiles. The threat of constant arrest, imprisonment, and death followed the life of his ministry, yet he never waivered from his calling. The lesson from Paul’s life is that God goes before us and prepares the way; God is with us in our despair and joy; and God is behind us preparing others to step up and serve as we plant the seeds by serving those around us. Each of us is a part of His Great Plan regardless of how we have succeeded or failed.