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 had him stand 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 realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’[a]” 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.”
Paul had been planning to visit Jerusalem and then go to Rome on his way to Spain (Romans 15:24).
But the Holy Spirit had warned him that if he went back to Jerusalem, he would end up a prisoner (Acts 20:23). And he sent Agabus the prophet to give him the same warning (Acts 21:11). From Ephesus to Caesarea, the churches and his companions had all begged him not to go to Jerusalem. And now Paul is fighting for his life. This is the second time the soldiers have had to rescue Paul to save him from being torn to pieces.
Now Jesus appears to him and tells him two things. The first is to be encouraged. That he needed to say this gives a hint of how discouraged Paul must have been. If I were him, I would have been depressed and seriously thinking I had got things all wrong. The second is that though Paul’s plans are in disarray, Jesus’ plans are not. Paul would preach in Rome in a totally different way than he had expected. He would end up preaching to Caesar, the most powerful man in the world. And on the way, he would preach to a king and two governors.
Jesus had already warned his disciples that this kind of thing would happen. “But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.” (Matthew 10:18)
Jesus is the one who turns things around. He turns catastrophes around and makes them opportunities. Jesus turns the catastrophe of my life around and makes me his child. He’s turning this out-of-control world around and redeeming and renewing it. To see it, I need to take my eyes off the chaos around me and look to him. I need to listen to him instead of the noise around me.
Today, Jesus, please open my eyes to see the opportunity for you to be heard amongst what sounds like accusation. Show me the things that you’re doing in the middle of what looks like calamity. And show me my part in the transformation you are bringing to my world.
Written by David Cornell