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Paul’s final journey—Jerusalem to Rome

November 24, 2023
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Daily Scripture

Acts 26:6-8, 19-23, 28:16, 30-31

Acts 26
6 Today I am standing trial because of the hope in the promise God gave our ancestors. 7 This is the promise our twelve tribes hope to receive as they earnestly worship night and day. The Jews are accusing me, King Agrippa, because of this hope! 8 Why is it inconceivable to you that God raises the dead?

19 “So, King Agrippa, I wasn’t disobedient to that heavenly vision. 20 Instead, I proclaimed first to those in Damascus and Jerusalem, then to the whole region of Judea and to the Gentiles. My message was that they should change their hearts and lives and turn to God, and that they should demonstrate this change in their behavior. 21 Because of this, some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to murder me. 22 God has helped me up to this very day. Therefore, I stand here and bear witness to the lowly and the great. I’m saying nothing more than what the Prophets and Moses declared would happen: 23 that the Christ would suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to my people and to the Gentiles.”

Acts 28
16 When we entered Rome, Paul was permitted to live by himself, with a soldier guarding him.

30 Paul lived in his own rented quarters for two full years and welcomed everyone who came to see him. 31 Unhindered and with complete confidence, he continued to preach God’s kingdom and to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

The ending of Acts may seem puzzling. Luke almost certainly wrote the book after Rome had executed Paul. But Paul’s death wasn’t the point—his message was. “Acts ends positively, showing how the expansion of the good news repeatedly emphasized earlier in the book continues even in the heart of the empire. In so doing, Acts presumably points to how the good news will continue ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).” *

  • In Acts 26:8, Paul posed a question to King Agrippa and Roman governor Festus that is still fundamental for Christian witness: “Why is it inconceivable to you that God raises the dead?” Some doubters might say, “I’ve never seen it happen.” True—but we believe all kinds of things about our world and universe that we’ve never personally observed. Can you trust as strongly in Jesus’ resurrection as Paul did? How can you, with caring and love, pose the question he posed?
  • Scholar N. T. Wright said of the ending of Acts: “The real hero of the whole book is of course the Jesus who was enthroned as the world’s Lord at the beginning, and is now proclaimed, at the end, ‘openly and unhindered’, that is, with all ‘boldness’… and with nobody stopping him.” Paul was in Rome, under the nose of the emperor who claimed the title “Lord.” Even there, Paul said that title belonged only to Jesus. Can you boldly share that Jesus is “Lord”?
Prayer

True Lord Jesus, you called Paul to carry your message to “the ends of the earth.” Thank you that his message has reached me, over 2000 years later, in a place Paul couldn’t even imagine. You were Lord in Rome; you are Lord in my life and my world. Amen.

GPS Insights

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe and his wife, Doris, first met in a Resurrection Single Adult Sunday School class in 1997 and were married in what is now the Student Center. They are empty nesters with 2 college-aged sons, Matthew and Jacob. Darren serves as a Couples Small Group co-leader & Men's Group Leader, while volunteering in a variety of other capacities at Resurrection.

Doris & I co-wrote a study of the Miracles of the Bible for her fall’s Thursday Women’s Group.  We studied 21 Biblical miracles ranging from The Day the Sun Stopped (Joshua 10:9-13) to The Healing of the Man Born Blind. (The man’s story, whom I named Len Scrafter, is in John 9:1-38. Sigh –Editor.)

The idea for the study came from The Jefferson Bible, “The Life & Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.”  Thomas Jefferson was fascinated & intrigued by the teachings of Jesus; however, Jefferson struggled with the miracles in the Bible.  So, in his late 70’s, Jefferson collated all the parables & stories of Jesus, but excluded all super-natural events, like the resurrection.

We asked the ladies to assign their personal rating of the believability of each miracle on a scale of 1-10.  One of our discussion points was the importance of being just open to the possibility of miracles in general.  As Albert Einstein wrote, “There are only 2 ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle.”1

Aside: Interestingly, Einstein’s true passion was to be a rap singer.  He even had his stage name picked out: “MC-Squared.”

We live in a culture that is tempted to worship intellectual & rational thinking where everything must be immediately provable & explainable; anything beyond justification must be a myth or fable.  However, as my elderly K-State science professor cautioned, “All thinkers should be forever curious & forever humble, noting that every conclusion should start with, ‘As of now, this is what we know.’”

While not an everyday event, the unexplainable does occur on occasion.  Scientific study is an awesome tool to verify theories & happenings, but science is limited to only studying those events that can be replicated.  Miracles, by their very nature, cannot be repeated.

Favorite joke when our boys were little guys: “Pete & Re-Pete are in a boat.  Pete falls out.  Who’s left?  Me: Re-Pete?  (Joyfully & Louder) “Pete & Re-Pete are in a boat…”

In today’s passage, Paul raises the question of the ages, “Is it inconceivable that God could raise the dead?”  Coincidentally, the last week of our Miracle study focused entirely on the resurrection story.  We discussed the medical trauma inflicted on Jesus, the verification of His death by Pilate & the Roman centurions, all the steps taken to ensure the body was not stolen or misplaced, the glorious discovery of the empty tomb, & all the documented appearances of Jesus, post-resurrection. 

We also considered the brave behavior of the early believers, as they faced financial ruin, ostracization from their loved ones, imprisonment, & the brutal persecution up to & including death.  Additionally, as we took into account that Roman officials & religious leaders controlled the media & could censor any stories that didn’t support their narrative, one can only conclude that it is truly miraculous that the Good News survived the first 30 years – let alone 2,000 years.

So what might this mean for us today?  The Jefferson Bible concludes with this passage from John 19:41-42, “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. There they laid Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed.”  Oh my.  With just a smidge of humility, Jefferson might have allowed himself the freedom to experience the immense joy of the empty tomb just 5 sentences later.

I would submit, a life where everything has to be logical/rational would negate the beauty of art & music, the tears of joy at the birth of a child, or the inspiration of a wayward life redeemed.  Of course, a life without the resurrection would necessarily mean that every funeral would be a cruel goodbye, instead of a consoling “au revoir” – until we meet again.

So, this Thanksgiving weekend is the perfect time to give thanks to God for the possibility of miracles, for the wonder of the inexplicable, & for the hope & divine love revealed by the resurrection. Amen.

Conclusion: On a Scale of 1-10 where do we rank the believability of the resurrection?

(1 = Experts can’t be wrong.  10 = I don’t just believe it, I’m counting on it!)

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

1www.awakin.org/v2/read/view.php?tid=255

© 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.
References

* NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (pp. 9720-9721). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** Wright, N. T., Acts for Everyone, Part Two: Chapters 13-28 (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 248). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.