“Paul, you are out of your mind…” - Acts 26:24
After two aborted attempts, Paul is finally able to complete his entire testimony before Agrippa and Festus. The scene is one of pomp and festivity: the puppet king of the region and the Roman governor presiding over a case that is more of a fascination to them than a matter of legal necessity – more theater than courtroom.
Paul’s defense is confident and sincere. Pay attention to its nuances: he insists “…that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee…” he calls out the Jews stubbornness by asking, “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?...” he recounts how he himself “was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth…”
But as Peter had once rebuffed the Sanhedrin, insisting that he could not help but testify about what he had seen and heard, today Paul offers that since that day on the road to Damascus, “…I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
This, at the last, will be the defining tension of the book of Acts. You’re allowed to read to the end, and meditate on the conclusion. Luke ends this book the way he wants, making the point he wants, and completing the arc of the story that he wants.
Before I send you there, I want to remind you of where this story began, over thirty years ago:
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
Our verse for this week is Hebrews 13:8: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Acts 26 through 28. Now let’s read it!
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.