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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, July 22, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Acts 22:30–23:11

Since he wanted to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jews, the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire council to meet. He brought Paul down and had him stand before them.

While Paul was looking intently at the council he said, “Brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God.” Then the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near him to strike him on the mouth. At this Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting there to judge me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law you order me to be struck?” Those standing nearby said, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not realize, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.’”

When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.) Then a great clamor arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and contended, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks. That night the Lord stood near him and said, “Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.” (NRSV)

I don’t know what it means, but the devotion passages chosen for me both this month and last have a “court case” theme associated with them. In June, my passage from Psalms was in the form of an individual lament in which the psalmist pleads their case for public ridicule directly to God. This month’s passage from Acts describes Paul’s defense in his trial before the religious authorities in Jerusalem.

Maybe the higher powers knew that I was supposed to be on jury duty in May, when I initially wrote these devotions. However, because of the quarantine, I did not have to serve. While I am sure that is just a coincidence, I would imagine that current events have made you feel like you are on trial. They sure have for me.

In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul is on trial in front of the religious authorities in Jerusalem because of his mission to the Gentiles. He is being accused of bringing Gentile believers into the Holy Temple with him. Paul gets off easy on this trial and he then returns immediately to journey to Rome to preach the Good News.

In the last verse of this passage, the author of Acts interprets the vision from God that Paul receives after this trial: “just as he testified in Jerusalem, so shall he bear witness in Rome.”

Basically, God assures Paul it is not going to be easy for him anywhere.

Boy, do I know how that feels right now!

Gracious God, I know that no one ever said our life in the faith would be easy. Help us, God, to rest assured in the knowledge that you understand our lot and that we can trust in the ability of your people to adapt and transform. Amen.

Written by Stuart Jamieson, Major and Planned Giving Officer

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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