Acts 22:30 – 23:11: A card well played.
“30 The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. So the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and set him before them. 23 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, ‘My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.’ 2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!’ 4 Those who were standing near Paul said, ‘How dare you insult God’s high priest!’ 5 Paul replied, ‘Brothers, I did not realise that he was the high priest; for it is written: “Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.” ’ 6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, ‘My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.’ 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.) 9 There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. ‘We find nothing wrong with this man,’ they said. ‘What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’ 10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks. 11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’” NIV UK
- An honourable man (23:1-5): Someone said that we each have to look deeply into our own eyes in the light of Scripture. Paul sought to live with a clear conscience. That didn’t mean he always did what was right, but he tried to. Furthermore, when he realised he was in the wrong (5) he sought to put things right. While Paul could not respect Ananias as a person, he did have respect for his God-given authority. He admitted he had committed a sin of ignorance;
- A clever ploy (6-10): Paul decided ‘to release the biggest cat into a room full of self-important pigeons.’ What he did ‘is more or less the equivalent of someone in a crowded and heated political meeting in a volatile southern American state suddenly producing a Confederate flag and waving it around. Some will always rally to it, whatever else they think about the person doing the waving. Whatever other substantive issues people might have expected to discuss will be lost in the melee.’ Tom Wright: ‘Acts for everyone Part 2’, p.169. Basically, the Pharisees believed in the supernatural, whereas the Sadducees were the anti-supernaturalists. The Pharisees believed in the doctrine of the ‘final’ resurrection but they weren’t prepared to accept that Jesus had risen from the dead; but they could see,from their point of view, that Jesus, having died, was being kept by God in a safe place awaiting resurrection day (along with all the other righteous dead), and that his ‘angel’ or ‘spirit’ (9) might well have spoken with the the apostle. The reference to the resurrection by Paul was a smart move, a clever ploy, and I can’t help but admire his ‘bottle’ and intelligence. He played this card in a timely fashion;
- An encouraging word (11): Paul’s instinct to get to Rome was correct. He was assured that he would reach the great city. He wasn’t promised an easy ride, but he would have a pulpit (or ‘dock’ – for Paul it amounted to the same thing). Many Christians right through to the present day could witness to having times when they have felt the Lord’s presence in a real way, and have heard His voice. They may not have seen Him with physical eyes, or heard an audible voice, yet the experience was as good as.
PRAYER: Lord, I don’t want to ever trust in human wit or ingenuity. Nevertheless, I place all I have at your disposal. Bless and use the intelligence you have given me that, surrendered to you, it may be used for your purposes.