Read: Acts 22:1-10
Paul, bound in chains asks for permission to address his Jewish brethren. He speaks to his brothers in Aramaic, a very old language. It was the language of the Jews. As a sign of solidarity with them, he uses their language and begins to tell them of his upbringing and training to love the Law and his commitment to the ancient faith. He mentions his zeal for the Law that lead him to seek permission from the high priest and council to stamp out the Christian movement by asking for letters to confirm his persecution of the Way. Paul tells them that he headed for Damascus to begin squashing this movement that was viewed as opposition and blasphemous to the faith of the Jews. We’ve read of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus back in chapter nine. Paul’s experience of Jesus on his way to Damascus had to live on his mind as the most important moment of his life. For the persecutor known as Saul, would begin to be transformed into Paul the missionary to the Gentiles. This Damascus Road experience for Paul is life shaping, life changing and life giving. Something so powerful happened to Paul that day he made his way to Damascus that he would never forget it.
Here in Jerusalem many years later, an aging, beaten preacher addresses his brothers and this story of his encounter with the resurrected Lord is center stage. Paul is not ashamed of his experience. As you will see in your reading for tomorrow, no one discounted his experience of the resurrected Jesus. No questions, no objections until Paul says that Jesus had commissioned him to go to the Gentiles. Apparently to this mob of Jewish believers they had no room in their hearts for the Gentile mission. We’ve mentioned already the importance in Acts of Luke’s emphasis on the Gentile mission. First, Luke himself was a Gentile, secondly through his time with Paul, Luke was aware that God’s plan had been to reconcile Jews and Gentiles and make them family in Christ. We’ve read of the Council’s decision in Acts 15 not forcing observation of the Law on Gentiles. We’ve read of the church at Antioch raising money for their Jewish brothers in Jerusalem. But, apparently some of these Jewish brothers were not that excited about the Gentiles being added to the kingdom and through their violent treatment of Paul it shows that they were narrow focused. It seems to me that these men and women in the mob angry with Paul so the kingdom as having walls, and they only wanted their own kind within its borders. But, Paul was the proclaimer of God’s grace and knew firsthand the Kingdom has no national boundaries. Paul knew that in Christ there were no walls, no barriers. Paul knew that the Gospel was for all men. This message got him into trouble.
What if we were bold enough to believe that this same message that Paul proclaimed is still as dangerous today as was in Paul’s day? What if we dared to believe like Paul that no matter what, this gospel which we have based all of our hope was more precious than any earthly thing? We would do well to view the gospel in such a light.