"The governor motioned to Paul that it was now his turn. Paul said, 'I count myself fortunate to be defending myself before you, Governor, knowing how fair-minded you've been in judging us all these years. I've been back in the country only twelve days -- you can check out these dates easily enough. I came with the express purpose of worshipping in Jerusalem on Pentecost, and I've been minding my own business the whole time. Nobody can say they saw me arguing in the Temple or working up a crowd in the streets. Not one of their charges can be backed up with evidences or witnesses.'" Acts 24:10-13 (The Message).
Now, Paul, it's your turn to pit your brilliant legal mind against Tertullius and his clients.
It was Paul's turn to speak, to make his defense against the pathetic accusations brought by Tertullius on behalf of the Jews who were trying to use emotional hype to make their case stick. The problem was that, for Felix, it was a toss-up between administering justice for Paul or currying favour with the Jews. That depended on the governor's character and integrity. Was this about justice or about winning a popularity contest with the influential and volatile Jewish leaders?
Paul appealed to the governor's past performance of good governance, whether it was true or not, in the hopes that Felix would want to uphold his good name. His defence was not based on emotion but on fact and truth.
Paul dismissed the charges of being a rabble-rouser with the contempt it deserved. He wasted no time defending himself on that point, appealing to Felix to call the witnesses and check the evidence.
"'But I do freely admit this: In regard to the Way which they malign as a dead-end street, I serve and worship the very same God served and worshipped by all our ancestors and embrace everything written in all our Scriptures. And I admit to living in hopeful anticipation that God will raise the dead, both the good and the bad. If that's my crime, my accusers are just as guilty as I am.'" Acts 24:14-15 (The Message).
Paul knew what the real issue was, just as Jesus did decades before. It was about the Messiah the Jewish leaders had rejected. This was not about his criminal activity. This was about their position of power over the people, and the wealth they garnered from their offerings. If Jesus was truly the Messiah, whom the people of the Way believed and followed, then the Jewish hierarchy would have to admit that they were wrong and that they had crucified their Messiah. They would have to eat humble pie, give up their position and follow Him.
Paul skilfully put them in a really bad light. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection, theoretically, but they rejected the resurrection of Jesus. If they were to be true to what they believed, they would have to acknowledge that Jesus was their Messiah. Paul had them cornered because he placed himself squarely on their side. If he were guilty of believing in the resurrection, so were they. He had gone all the way and embraced the resurrection as fact and proof of Jesus' Messiah ship. They had not.
Paul had dug in the knife. In the next few sentences he would slash open the hearts of these hypocrites and their slimy, useless lawyer who did no more than mouth the feeble accusations of his clients. This had nothing to do with Paul's behaviour and everything to do with their unbelieving and greedy hearts.
This is a clear lesson for all who claim to be followers of the Messiah Jesus. There is no room in His body for people who follow Him for what they can get out of it for themselves. Jesus is about truth. He is Messiah and Lord, appointed by the Father to be the king over all things. Those who would follow Him may only do so if they abandon themselves to Him as Lord.
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