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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 40: October 22, 2009, Acts 26.1-32

Day 40: October 22, Acts 26.1-32

My commentary appears after the text below.

Acts 26

26Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and began to defend himself: 2“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3because you are especially familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews; therefore I beg of you to listen to me patiently. 4“All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. 5They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I have belonged to the strictest sect of our religion and lived as a Pharisee. 6And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, 7a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship day and night. It is for this hope, your Excellency, that I am accused by Jews! 8Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? 9“Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. 11By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.

12”With this in mind, I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. 14When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ 15I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. 17I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ 19“After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance. 21For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: 23that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

24While he was making this defense, Festus exclaimed, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!” 25But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. 26Indeed the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am certain that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. 27King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?” 29Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.” 30Then the king got up, and with him the governor and Bernice and those who had been seated with them; 31and as they were leaving, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor.”

Commentary:   "Paul stretched out his hand."  This is the stance of an orator, someone who is about to give reason and logic to his audience...instead Paul tells a story, his story.  Ultimately I am convinced that outside of some great movement of the Holy Spirit, it is OUR story that is the best presentation of the Gospel.  Paul tells Agrippa his personal story, what Jesus has meant to him, and who Jesus has changed his life.  What I love about Paul's story is that nowhere does he say that his life was empty without Jesus. On the contrary he had a passion and a purpose without Christ.  The difference is that in Christ he has found a 'better way!"  What would be your story?  How can you present it?
Festus calls out:  "Your out of your mind!  Too much learning has made you insane!"  Agrippa on the other hand, whether out of sarcasm or wisdom understands exactly what Paul is doing:  "Are you so quickly pursuading me to become a Christian?"  Paul's answer is clear:  Yes, I would hope so for you and for everyone here!   The message of what Christ is doing must be shared, however, it often times will fall on deaf ears--Festus and must often on "undecided ears" like Agrippa.   We never hear about Agrippa again.  What happened to him?  Did the faith take hold or was it always just a curious little conversation that seemed to have some light in it, but not enough to change Agrippa's life or turn him toward Christ.   The Agrippa's of the world may in the end be the most dangerous to the faith, even more dangerous than the enemies of Christianity, for Agrippa seems to dismiss Christianity as 'nothing deserving death' but of course that is exactly what Christianity should be---dying and rising.

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