Thursday 28 May 2009

Bible Book:

"When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, 'Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.'" (v.6)

Acts 22:30; 23:6-11 Thursday 28 May 2009


This passage comes at the beginning of Paul's long period as aprisoner, in which in due course and by several stages, he is takento Rome for appearance at the emperor's court. His imprisonmentbegins in chapter 21 as "protective custody", having been rescuedby the Roman troops in Jerusalem from a crowd stirred up by Jewishreligious leaders making exaggerated claims about Paul underminingnational pride.

Claudius Lysias, the commanding officer, requests a meeting of theJewish council so that he may have a clear account of the chargeagainst Paul which stirred the crowd into trying to kill him. Whenthe council convenes, Paul notices (or is reminded) that itcontains two parties. The Sadducees were the high priests and allthe other priests who performed the sacrifices and other Templeworship rituals. The Pharisees were the Bible scholars andreligious teachers.

As Luke, the writer of Acts, explains for his non-Jewish readers inverse 8, the Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, did not believe inthe resurrection of the dead. (Nor therefore, did they believe thatbetween death and resurrection people have the form of spirits orangels - see, for example, Luke24:37 and Acts 12:15.) Thiswas because they only accepted the authority of the books of Moses(the first five books of our Bible) as Scripture, and all the OldTestament references to resurrection come in later books.

Paul sets the council arguing among themselves by referring to hisbackground as a Pharisee, and stating, quite truly that he is ontrial for his belief in the resurrection. The Pharisees becomeeager to pursue their ongoing debate with the Sadducees and so theysupport Paul, but when fierce debate shows signs of turning uglyPaul is again taken into armed custody for his own safety.

Verse 11 shows the continuing belief that Jesus communicateddirectly with his key followers long after his resurrection (22:17-18and 27:23-24 aresimilar instances concerning Paul in this part of his story). Itseemed to happen especially in times of crisis or at key turningpoints. The words the Lord speaks are encouraging, but will not befollowed by any more miraculous releases or escapes.

To Ponder

Do you think Paul was right to seek to deflectattention from himself by his strategy in the council? Why?

Paul truly believes that the resurrection of thedead, evidenced by the resurrection of Jesus, is the heart of theChristian good news. How important to you is this aspect of themessage?

Have you experienced Jesus speaking directly toyou, or something similar? What were the circumstances? And theoutcomes?

Previous Page Wednesday 27 May 2009
Next Page Friday 29 May 2009