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Paul appealed to Caesar

November 22, 2023

Daily Scripture

Acts 21:27-33, 22:21-29, 23:11-21, 25:4-12

Acts 21
27 When the seven days of purification were almost over, the Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the temple. Grabbing him, they threw the whole crowd into confusion by shouting, 28 “Fellow Israelites! Help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, the Law, and this place. Not only that, he has even brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” (29 They said this because they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him earlier, and they assumed Paul had brought him into the temple.) 30 The entire city was stirred up. The people came rushing, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple. Immediately the gates were closed. 31 While they were trying to kill him, a report reached the commander of a company of soldiers that all Jerusalem was in a state of confusion. 32 Without a moment’s hesitation, he took some soldiers and officers and ran down to the mob. When the mob saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 When the commander arrived, he arrested Paul and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Only then did he begin to ask who Paul was and what he had done.

Acts 22
21 [Paul said,] “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go! I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they shouted, “Away with this man! He’s not fit to live!” 23 As they were screaming, throwing off their garments, and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander directed that Paul be taken into the military headquarters. He ordered that Paul be questioned under the whip so that he could find out why they were shouting at him like this.
25 As they were stretching him out and tying him down with straps, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Can you legally whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t been found guilty in court?”
26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. He asked, “What are you about to do? This man is a Roman citizen!”
27 The commander went to Paul and demanded, “Tell me! Are you a Roman citizen?”
He said, “Yes.”
28 The commander replied, “It cost me a lot of money to buy my citizenship.”
Paul said, “I’m a citizen by birth.” 29 At once those who were about to examine him stepped away. The commander was alarmed when he realized he had bound a Roman citizen.

Acts 23
11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Be encouraged! Just as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so too you must testify in Rome.”
12 The next morning some Jewish leaders formulated a plot and solemnly promised that they wouldn’t eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty people were involved in the conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have solemnly promised to eat nothing until we have killed Paul. 15 You and the council must explain to the commander that you need Paul brought down to you. Pretend that you want to examine his case more closely. We’re prepared to kill him before he arrives.”
16 Paul’s sister had a son who heard about the ambush and he came to the military headquarters and reported it to Paul. 17 Paul called for one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander because he has something to report to him.”
18 He took him to the commander and said, “The prisoner Paul asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to tell you.”
19 The commander took him by the hand and withdrew to a place where they could speak privately. He asked, “What do you have to report to me?”
20 He replied, “The Jewish leaders have conspired to ask that you bring Paul down to the council tomorrow. They will pretend that they want to investigate his case more closely. 21 Don’t fall for it! More than forty of them are waiting to ambush him. They have solemnly promised not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, awaiting your consent.”

Acts 25
4 But Festus responded by keeping Paul in Caesarea, since he was to return there very soon himself. 5 “Some of your leaders can come down with me,” he said. “If he’s done anything wrong, they can bring charges against him.”
6 He stayed with them for no more than eight or ten days, then went down to Caesarea. The following day he took his seat in the court and ordered that Paul be brought in. 7 When he arrived, many Jews who had come down from Jerusalem surrounded him. They brought serious charges against him, but they couldn’t prove them. 8 In his own defense, Paul said, “I’ve done nothing wrong against the Jewish Law, against the temple, or against Caesar.”
9 Festus, wanting to put the Jews in his debt, asked Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem to stand trial before me concerning these things?”
10 Paul replied, “I’m standing before Caesar’s court. I ought to be tried here. I have done nothing wrong to the Jews, as you well know. 11 If I’m guilty and have done something that deserves death, then I won’t try to avoid death. But if there is nothing to their accusations against me, no one has the authority to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
12 After Festus conferred with his advisors, he responded, “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Some of Paul’s Asian enemies saw him in the Jerusalem Temple. Guessing wrongly that he’d led a Gentile into the “Jews only” area, they urged the crowd to kill him. Only prompt Roman action saved Paul from violent death. But Acts 23:11 said, “The Lord stood near Paul.” God said, “Be encouraged! Just as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so too you must testify in Rome.” Paul “had always intended to go to Rome, but now, thanks to the accusations of his fellow Jews, Rome would foot the bill for his journey!” *

  • Paul’s enemies made hugely exaggerated claims in Acts 21:28. Paul valued his Hebrew heritage. He did not teach “against” the Hebrew people, their law or the Temple. When have you seen others exaggerate the position of people they disagree with, creating a “straw man” to discredit? Are you able to differ with someone without overstating or even lying about what that person believes?
  • “Paul’s sister had a son who heard about the ambush” (Acts 23:16)? Scholar N. T. Wright said this “is something we didn’t know and would love to know more about. Did Paul have lots of family in Jerusalem?…. Were they…supporters of what he was doing or embarrassed by the attention he was drawing to the family? We know none of this.” ** We know God used Paul’s alert nephew to save Paul from a deadly trap. When have you seen God work through surprising people?

Lord Jesus, I’m not sure I could carry out the hugely challenging mission you gave Paul. But I do ask that you’ll guide me and strengthen me to do the tasks you set before me each day. Amen.

GPS Insights

Amy Oden

Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

The concept of “being called” is a powerful one. At its heart is the radical claim that God speaks into our everyday lives and that we can have “ears to hear” it. God doesn’t just call Paul or super holy people. God calls each of us every day.

How does God speak into your everyday life? How have you experienced being called? What helps you have “ears to hear,” ears that are open and available rather than stuffed full of noise?

For me, questions are good starting places. Some of these questions help me notice the ways a holy call might show up in my life:

  • When have I experienced a clear sense of God’s presence or speaking in my life? What was that like and what characterized it for me?
  • What sorts of nudges, longings or desires continue to show up in my life when I pause to breathe and clear the clutter of distractions?
  • What holy seeds (interests, joys, hopes) were planted early in my life – in childhood or teenage years — that I want to tend and cultivate? This may be a place of calling.
  • When lately have I felt truly alive or had a clear sense of being rooted in something real and true in my life?

It may feel hard at first, like a muscle you didn’t know had and are using for the first time. Over time, I’ve found I can slow down to listen, recognize patterns, and take more risks to follow the call. Try it and see what you discover.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Hamilton, Adam, The Call: The Life and Message of the Apostle Paul (p. 194). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
** Wright, N. T., Acts for Everyone, Part Two: Chapters 13-28 (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 172). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.