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"They said, 'Nobody wrote warning us about you. And no one has shown up saying anything bad about you. But we would like very much to hear more. The only thing we know about this Christian sect is that nobody seems to have anything good to say about it.'
"They agreed on a time. When the day arrived, they came back to his home with a number of their friends. Paul talked to them all day, from morning to evening, explaining everything involved in the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them all about Jesus by pointing out what Moses and the prophets had said about Him." Acts 28:21-23 (The Message).
As always, Paul gave the first opportunity to his own people to hear the gospel. Putting aside all his previous experiences with the Jews, he summoned the leaders to listen to his story in the hopes that some of them would believe and take the message back to their own community while Paul was restricted to his quarters under house arrest.
Paul's meeting with the Jews in Rome started off in friendly fashion. At least, as far as they were concerned, he could begin with a clean slate. His reputation had not yet preceded him. He could tell his story to an unbiased audience and allow them to make their choices without prejudice, so he thought.
For a whole day Paul opened up their Scriptures to them, shining light on and bringing new meaning to the old familiar words. What a Bible study it must have been! His letter to the Roman church had already been written, and his readers familiar with the grand truths that he had unlocked for them from the pages of Holy Writ. No doubt drawing from the understanding he had received under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, like his Master, he spoke of the glories of the kingdom of God to men who should have had an appreciation of the Scriptures.
"Some of them were persuaded by what he said, but others refused to believe a word of it. When the unbelievers got cantankerous and started bickering with one another, Paul interrupted: 'I have just one more thing to say to you. The Holy Spirit sure knew what He was talking about when He addressed our ancestors through Isaiah the prophet:'" Acts 28:24-25 (The Message).
The same thing all over again! Paul should have been used to it by now. This is the nature of the gospel of Jesus. He warned that it would be so: 'I did not come to bring peace but a sword.' His truth and His claims inevitably draw a sharp line down the middle. Such is the truth about Him that no one can remain neutral or indifferent to Him.
There is an innate enmity against God in the heart of every human being until their deep need for Him rises to the surface with a longing to know Him that outweighs their antagonism towards Him. Some will follow their hearts while others will retain that inward hostility that will rob them of the mercy that constantly reaches out to them. They will put anything in its place rather than submit to the love that calls them to Himself. The fight is so strong that they will destroy the messenger rather than respond to his message.
There is little else in the world that provokes such a violent response as the claims of Jesus. Religion and politics are the main causes of the great divide. But Jesus' call is not to a cause like religion or politics: it is to Himself. 'Come, follow me,' He invites us, and that implies only one thing. You cannot follow a dead man, therefore He must be alive.
Unlike the founders of every counterfeit religion who can only leave behind a record of what they said or did, Jesus is alive! Like all others, He died, but unlike any other, He rose again to authenticate every claim He made about Himself. He is the only one who can speak, now, into your heart, saying, 'Come, follow me.'
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