Sermon Summary - Jesus and His Personal Encouragement to Us - Acts 22:22-23:11
If you’ve been a Christian long enough, you’ve known fruitful seasons of ministry, but also times where your life seems fruitless. But even the discouraging times are ordained by our loving Savior. And it is often in these times that our Lord comes to us with a special intimacy.
Acts 22:22 picks up with Paul’s testimony before the Jews being cut off by the crowd who could not bear the idea that Gentiles could be saved. Did Paul not understand his audience? Why didn’t he change the content of the gospel to please the crowd? Paul knew the true gospel and that he was not allowed to change the good news that Jesus Himself commissioned him to preach. Paul surely felt the temptation to leave certain things out depending on his audience. But that would have been conforming God and the gospel to the culture rather than calling the culture to repentance.
After the crowd is stirred up, the tribune (Claudius Lysias) saves Paul from the crowd which was calling for Paul’s death. As it was his job to keep the peace, he aims to find out why the crowd is stirred up and decides to try and beat it out of Paul (Acts 22:23-24). But Paul points out that flogging him was illegal because he was a Roman citizen, uncondemned, as he had not stood trial (Acts 22:25-28). Paul saw no need to suffer for the sake of suffering, so he played his get-out-of-torture free card (Acts 22:29).
On the next day, the tribune brings Paul before the Jewish Sanhedrin (which was the same Council that condemned Jesus), to try and understand why Paul was being accused (Acts 22:30). Paul starts off his explanation to the Council by saying that he is in essence a good Jew, living before God with a good conscience (Acts 23:1). But this is like blasphemy to the high priest, Ananias, and he orders him to be struck on the mouth (Acts 23:2). Paul then loses it; he retaliates, calling him a white-washed wall (i.e. a hypocrite) (Acts 23:3). There was a stark difference between how Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin and how Paul did (Cf. 1 Peter 2:23). Luke is real about the lives of Christians, and candid even about times when they sin. Paul admits he was wrong (Acts 23:5), and also sees that this is no time to preach the gospel. He instead sees a way out of this dangerous situation by throwing gas on the fire of the theological division among the Council (Acts 23:6-9). His plan works and he is rescued by the tribune once again. As the Council was becoming violent, Paul is taken away to go back into the barracks (Acts 23:10). Sitting in those barracks for hours, this has to be one of the darkest days of his life. For years he had been hoping to come to Jerusalem for what he had hoped would be fruitful ministry. And instead it has all come crumbling down. He must have been physically, spiritually, and emotionally exhausted. Have you ever been there? If you've lived long enough, it's sure to have come at some time.
Paul’s nightmare continues on through the morning and all the way through to the following night. What would the Lord Jesus do for Paul in this situation? Jesus stands by him in a resurrection appearance and comes in a very special way (Acts 23:11). Jesus spoke to him, reassuring him that he would reach Rome. Hasn’t the Lord come to you also at times in your life with encouragement? Jesus doesn’t show up and encourage his perfect sinless sheep. But He is with His people who love Him, who walk with Him, who sin, and who repent and turn to Him again and again. He stands by His sheep in their hardest times and says, “Take courage.” (Cf. Mat. 9:2, 9:22, 14:27, John 16:33, Is. 43:1-2).
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