Paul has arrived in Rome at last to appeal to Caesar as a Roman citizen. He is met by Christian brothers, who fill him full of thanks to God and courage for the road ahead. He is allowed to stay by himself in relative comfort, still bound in chains, but guarded by only one soldier. Immediately he sets to work:
“After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, ‘Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case’” (Ac 28:17-18).
Appealing first to his own people, the Jews in Rome, Paul begins by proclaiming that under the aegis of Roman justice in Jerusalem, he has been exonerated, having done nothing deserving death. Yet his own Jewish people disputed the decision by the Romans and demanded that Paul be put to death. The Romans were faced with rioting and upheaval, which would not be tolerated by their higher command:
“’But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar – though I had no charge to bring against my nation’” (Ac 28:19).
Paul has not come to Rome as an accuser against the Jews, despite the despicable violence they have brought against him in Jerusalem. He has come in defense of himself and only because he has no other choice. This is an astonishing element of perfect unity that few can understand, but which all true believers in Christ must learn:
Turn the other cheek; do not respond to disunity with retaliation and more disunity! Jesus has taught us: “’Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also’” (Mt 5:39).
Paul continues reasoning with the Jews of Rome:
“’For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.’ And they said to him, ‘We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you’” (Ac 28:20-21).
The Jews in Rome offer the sincerity of being willing to listen to Paul with fresh ears, allowing the man to speak freely without prejudice, despite their awareness of the bigger issue:
“’But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against’” (Ac 28:22).
Up to this point, both Paul and the Jewish leaders in Rome have approached this issue in unity as brothers in the Jewish faith. They have made it clear that the “sect” of Judaism has a bad reputation, but they sincerely want to hear Paul’s version:
“When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in great numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and the Prophets” (Ac 28:23).
From this encounter between Paul and the Roman Jews, we can see two principles for unity during honest dialog (as contrasted by the murderous attacks by the Jews in Jerusalem:
- Commit significant time to the issue.
- Listen long and hard.
- Take significant time to pray for clarity of God’s will.
But hurry back for the final blog of biblical history, that began with the initial blog from Genesis 1 back on October 24, 2014, and ends with a major trigger point, as Paul’s journey ends in Rome.
Can you believe it’s been five and a half years of blogs? God willing, there will be many more!