It’s the old story. And the old story is the new story, the ever-present, glorious, transforming story. It’s the story of how you came to know that grace that saves you. The story doesn’t save you, the memory and the feelings about it don’t save you. Jesus saves you, and whether your awareness of Him was sudden or very gradual, that story of grace should be always fresh and captivating. Because Jesus is.
It’s the same for Paul. But Paul knows that he’s speaking to very hostile people. He’s not expecting to see the handkerchiefs coming out, as the tears appear, or the requests to hear more. He’s fighting for his life, seeking to show hard-hearted people that he’s not the heretic and trouble-maker they are convinced he is. He’s also fighting for his Lord, trying to show them that Jesus is no imposter, but the Promised Messiah. He is the Lord who met the persecuting Saul, threw him to the ground, blinding by the Lord of Glory, and led Him to repentance and new birth through faith.
All of this must be astonishing to the ears of the crowd. But Paul then says something they really can’t handle: Paul was, he claims, commissioned by Israel’s Messiah to go to the pagans (v.21). As soon as he says that, the riot’s back on. And why? Well, it’s obvious: they demand that God be their God, and noone else’s. And the irony! Even though Paul tells them that this God took human flesh as Jesus of Nazareth and was crucified, their shock is less in that fact, more in the fact that He wants to reach the Gentiles. The scandal of it!
For the second time, then, Paul is snatched from their fury (vv.22-4). Things then suddenly escalate; not that the crowd can get any more angry – they can’t – but Paul takes his demand for justice to the highest level, as he asserts his Roman citizenship. Crazy Syrian though he might be, he is also a subject of Caesar, and he is going to use the privileges of that status. To be continued.
A Prayer to Pray
Father, never let me tire of the story of Your saving grace to me and how I came to encounter it. Lord Jesus, make me a willing vessel of Your transforming grace. And may I have less far bothered about the reaction to Your Gospel, and have a far deeper concern to speak it. Amen.