June 27, 2021
1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.”
So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: 2 “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.
4 “The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. 6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. 7 This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. 8 Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
9 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
Paul shows his connection to his accusers. It does two things. One is that it shows some of why his accusers are upset with him. He had certainly been one of their group and now he had left them for the very ones they were upset with in the first place. The second is that it shows that change from being the one persecuting to being one with those he persecuted can also happen. If he can change that drastically, then there must be truth in what they have been saying.
In one way it shows the motivation of his accusers and in the other it shows the wrongness of his persecutors. And here is where Paul shows what he has truly been guilty of. He falsely imprisoned and condemned innocent people to death, and took part in their deaths. He is not guilty of the crime he is accused of, but he is guilty of the crime his accusers are part of.
The most striking thing is that Paul has changed. Paul has moved from the accuser to the accused, but more importantly he has moved from being against Jesus and his followers to being with Jesus and being one of his followers. It is the drastic nature of Paul’s change that shows the power of God’s grace. Paul moved from the legalism and control to the grace and freedom of Christ.
We might not have that drastic sense of call and conversion. Yet we also are called to change, repentance, forgiveness. We offer and receive grace, just as we have received an offer of grace from God already. See the testimony of change in our lives and the continuing work of the Spirit bringing renewal and change to us each day. To be finally complete in a permanent resurrection. The hope Paul is accused of, the resurrection of the dead; Jesus already, and all of us will follow.
In drastic circumstances like Paul’s, our own circumstances that may be harsh right now, or just the “routines” of life. At all times we rest in the comfort of resurrection and that change can come to us all.
Song – Revelation Song
Eternal God, we confess that we do not expect and long for the transforming power of your love to work miracles in these hard hearts of ours. Yet we secretly long for a rescue, an escape, a miracle, to relieve us of the responsibilities and the challenges you set before us. Healing Spirit, renew our confidence in your power and in the power of love to change our lives, and give us courage to be the fully responsible persons Christ calls us to be. Amen.