About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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This Section - Chapter 22:30 and 23

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ch. 22:30-23:11    ch. 23:12-22    ch. 23:23-35

Before The Sanhedrin (ch. 22:30 Ė 23:11)

In verse 30, Paul had his chains removed from him.  The captain
of the guards wanted to get to the bottom of this matter.  He wanted to know why the Jews wanted Paul dead, so he called the chief priest and the whole Sanhedrin together. 

The Sanhedrin is a group of 70 or 71 men, depending on what commentator you read.  Rome allowed the Jews to have a certain measure of autonomy in Judea, and especially in Jerusalem.  These men might be compared to a parliament.  They were the rulers of the Jews in certain matters.  They could arrest, imprison, but not execute those they considered criminal.     

In verse 1 of chapter 23 Paul now gets a chance to defend himself before the Jewish Sanhedrin and the Roman authorities.   Luke says that he looked "straight at the Sanhedrin".  Possibly Paul was studying the faces of those he was talking to.  He might have known some of them from his pre-conversion days. 

He calls them brothers because they are fellow Jews, not because they are brothers in the Lord.

The first thing that Paul says is that he has "a good conscience" before God.  He had done all that God required of him up to that date.  As far as Paul was concerned, he lived his life in a way that was pleasing to God, although those listening would question that point.  This should be the mentality for all Christians.  

It is clear that the high priest was angry with Paul from the very beginning.  Paul hardly had a chance to say anything.  In verse 2 the high priest had him slapped in the face. 

In verse 3 we note that Paul did not appreciate being hit in the face.  Paul was clearly upset.  He called those in his presence white washed walls.  This is an idiom meaning that they were hypocrites.  A white washed wall looked nice and clean but it was still dirty below its white new finish on it.

Paul was right on when he said that the Jewish leadership accused him of not upholding the Law while at the same time they broke the Law by having him being struck in the face.  This is why Paul viewed these men as hypocrites.

In verse 4 we see that Paul was rebuked for calling the chief priest a white washed wall.  The text calls Ananias, the high priest, "God's priest".  He might well have been a high priest but he certainly wasn't God's high priest.

In verse 5 Paul turns a bit apologetic.  He did not realize that Ananias was the high priest, and, he knew the Scripture taught that no one should speak evil of the high priest. (Exodus 22:28)  I think that if Paul had have known that Ananias was the high priest he would not have talked as he did.  I believe that even though Paul did not consider  Ananias to be a man of God, he still had respect for the position of high priest or else he wouldn't have said what he said here.   I think as Christians we can learn from this.  We may disagree with any kind of leadership.  It may be civil leaders or it may be Christian leaders, whatever the case, we must be respectful.  That doesn't mean we hold back the truth, because we don't.  We speak the truth in love.  We speak the truth in a respectful way even if the respect is not returned to us, as seen here. 

We see Paul's craftiness at work in verse 6.  He knew there were both Sadducees and Pharisees in the Sanhedrin.  These two groups differed in their theology in many respects.  One way in which they differed concerned the resurrection of the dead.  That Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.  Once you die, that's it. The Pharisees did believe that there was life after death. 

With this in mind Paul told them that he was a Pharisee and the reason why he was arrested was solely due to the fact that he believed in the resurrection of the dead.  I think Paul was hoping this would split the group in half.  The Pharisees would take his side on this issue while the Sadducees would oppose him.  At that point he would have hoped the Pharisees would drop their case against him. 

You seldom see Paul calling himself a Pharisee after he became a Christian, but he does here, and, it was only part of his defense.  He didn't go around preaching the Law as a good Pharisee would.  He only said this as a means to divide his opposition, and once divided, would fall.     

We see in verses 9 and 10 that Paul's plan worked.  The Sanhedrin was divided and they were arguing vigorously with each other.  Things were getting serious and violent as passions rose.  Things got so violent between the Pharisees and the Sadducees that the captain of the guard had to send his soldiers to get Paul.  He was afraid that Paul would be torn apart by the violence that he saw taking place. So the soldiers took Paul back to the barracks.

One Thing we can learn here is that in a debate, Christians can be crafty, as Paul was.  There's no need to take a back seat to our opposition. 

Another thing we see here is that religion apart from Jesus and the Holy Spirit can get pretty nasty.  You see this over and over throughout the centuries, and that includes so-called Christianity, as seen in what has been called the dark ages.  The sad fact of the matter is that we still see it today, even in so-called Evangelical circles.  

We see in verse 11 that while Paul was back in the barracks, the next night the Lord spoke to Him.  He said, "Take courage!  As you have testified about me in Jerusalem so you must testify in Rome.  This is yet another confirmation of what Ananias prophesied to Paul back in chapter 9.  Paul would suffer much for the sake of the gospel and that that he would proclaim the truth of the gospel to Gentiles and their kings.  That was now coming true.  The tough part for Paul was that this proclamation of the gospel to Roman authorities that would end up at Caesar would be proclaimed while he was a prisoner in chains.  He would defend himself and the gospel all the way to Caesar. Paul rose to the challenge.  He was one tough man.   

 

The Plot To Kill Paul  (ch. 23:12 - 22)

In verses 12 through 15 the Jews were so furious with Paul that forty men got together and vowed that they would not eat or drink until they killed Paul.  Their plan was to petitioned the Sanhedrin to ask the captain of the guards to bring Paul back to them for further questioning, and on the way they would attack Paul and kill him on the spot.

We do not know very much about Paulís family but in verse 16 we learn that he has a sister and that sister has a son.  It was this son that somehow found out about this plot to kill Paul.  How he found out, we donít know.  Upon hearing of the plan he went right to Paul and told him.  I wonder if Paul's sister and son were Christians.  I have a hard time thinking they wouldn't be, but one never knows.  Jesus did say that because of Him, families would be split.

Verse 17 tells us that once Paul heard this he asked one of the guards to take his sisterís son to the captain of the guards to inform him of this plan.

We see in the remaining verses of this section that the young man did tell the captain all that he knew concerning the plot to ambush Paul.  The captain dismissed the young man and told him not to tell anyone that he had mentioned this plan to him.  Once again Paul's life was spared. 

Jesus wanted Paul to testify of Him in Rome.  There were a number of opportunities for Paul to have lost his life up to this point and beyond, but that could never be, and I believe Paul knew that.  If Jesus wanted Paul to preach to Caesar, to Caesar he would preach.  Nothing would get in the way.  

As I've noted before, all along the way while Paul was heading to Jerusalem there were prophetic words that told him that trouble would face him when he reached the city.  That certainly came true.  Accompanying these prophecies were words from the believers for Paul not to go to Jerusalem .  Paul refused to listen to these words.  Jesus speaking to Paul as He did here confirms the fact that Paul was right all along in going to Jerusalem.

In Romans 8:28 and following Paul said that nothing could separate us from the love of God, not even death.  Paul knew this truth experientially. It was very real to him.    

 

Paul Transferred To Caesarea (ch. 23: 23 - 34)

In verse 23 we see that after hearing of the plot to kill Paul the captain of the guards decided to send Paul to Caesarea to see Governor Felix.  Caesarea was the capital city of the Roman province of Judea.  Some believe that the captain of the guards, who we now know the name of, Claudius Lysias, went a little overboard in how he transferred Paul to Caesarea .  He sent a detachment of two hundred  soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen just to keep one man safe and alive.  I wonder what Paul thought about that.  It seemed a bit much, but you must remember, there was a lot of pressure put on the officials in Judea to keep the Jews quiet and calm.  No Roman official wanted to blow it and get Rome upset with him.  He would certainly lose his job if not his life.

Felix was the governor of the province of Judea.  Caesarea is roughly seventy miles from Jerusalem.  Felix was known to be a very cruel man at times, not caring what anyone thought of him. 

Claudius sent a letter along with these men to Felix filling him in on the reason why Paul was being sent to him as seen in verses 26 to 30.  In the letter he stated that the Jews tried to kill Paul and so he arrested him.  After calling the Sanhedrin together to get to the bottom of things he still could not learn why the Jews wanted Paul dead.  It appeared to be a matter of Jewish Law.  Therefore, when he found out that Paulís life was once again in danger because of a plot against him, he felt he should send him to Felix.  

A point to consider is that throughout Acts when the Jewish Christian conflict reached the Roman courts, the Romans always were reluctant to here the case because from their viewpoint it was just a matter of religion.  The Roman authorities figured the Christians and Jews should be able to resolve their religious conflict on their own.  They didn't need Rome 's help.  Of course, nothing ever got resolved.       

In verse 31 the multitude of soldiers left at 9 PM and went 42
 miles to Antipatris.  At this point the guards returned to Jerusalem except the cavalry, meaning the seventy horsemen earlier mentioned.  These men took Paul the rest of the way to Caesarea.  I imagine that part of the military force that took Paul half way went back home because there might have been a crowd of Jews following them.  By the half way point, most of these Jews might have returned back to Jerusalem.

Paul was delivered to Felix with the letter.  After reading the letter he learned that Paul was from the province of Cilicia.  He then decided to hear Paulís case once his Jewish accusers arrived in town.

Felix needed to know what province Paul was from.  He was arrested in Jerusalem, in the province of  Judea.  Paul was originally from the province of Cilicia which was under the rule of the province of Syria at the time.  Depending on what Paulís alleged crime was might mean that he should be transferred to a Syrian court.

Note Herod's Palace in verse 35.  This would have been the palace where Pilate lived back in the days when he sentenced Jesus to death.

 

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