I love the section near the end of the reading today. I almost decided to preach from it this week. Instead I’ll scratch that itch a little here. Paul stands before King Agrippa and basically gives us the summary of his own life. He speaks of his love for his country, his religious zeal, his conversion, and then he talks of how he took the truth of Christ to others. I love when he says this:
“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. Acts 26:19-20
I love that this statement seems to echo the command from Jesus back in Acts 1:8 remember this:
Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
I love that we get to see the command from way back in chapter one fulfilled (at least in part) in Paul’s life here near the end of Acts.
I love Paul’s commitment to preach.
I love that Paul tells us clearly that our deeds can reflect our heart condition.
I love that Paul is literally practicing what he has been preaching.
But what I really love, what I absolutely dig is that in the minds of the government leaders (Festus and Agrippa) Paul is supposed to be defending himself. He is supposed to be making his case to be released. The leaders are confused. They’re perplexed by Paul’s behavior. Paul has been in jail for more than two years at this point. The context suggests that they would have liked to release him. Paul’s defense instead of being focused on his own freedom or his own protection is all about Jesus. He says…
That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”
At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” Acts 26:21-24
Paul doesn’t care if you’re a sewer rat or a king. He testifies to small and great alike. He doesn’t testify to how great he is or how much he has done. He points to Jesus. He points to Christ reflected in the Hebrew Scriptures. He makes a case for Christ.
Festus is shocked and he thinks Paul is crazy. It’s not Paul outward behavior that makes them think that he is odd. Paul isn’t making a scene. Paul is not drawing attention to himself. Instead he is pointing to Jesus. Weird. People find that weird in general but when we find ourselves in positions that would normally suggest that we focus on ourselves and we instead point to Christ it causes people to take notice. Paul responds to the accusation of being crazy:
“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” Acts 26:25-29
Yep. That’s Paul’s desire. Is it ours? Paul spends his life walking it out. Why? Well because for Paul Christ is reasonable and true. Do we believe that? Do our actions reflect that belief? Are the people (small and great alike) that we encounter surprised at our focus?