Paul is now in the hands of the Roman governor Felix in Caesarea awaiting trial in the presence of his accusers:
“After five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul” (Ac 24:1).
It is interesting that Paul does not get to hear the case against him nor have his own spokesman. Now he walks into pre-loaded hostility vibrant with hatred:
“And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying: ‘Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude’” (Ac 24:2-3).
Right, the Jewish establishment absolutely loves their Roman rulers!
“’But to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. We have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.’ The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so” (Ac 24:4-9).
Guilty until proven innocent. Oh, and by the way, we hold all the cards. Or so Ananias and Tertullus think. But tipping the scales immorally does not cause Paul to panic – he has the ear of the true Judge!
“And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied: ‘Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me’” (Ac 24:10-13).
There is no proof. Why have they not brought witnesses? Because they do not exist. Clearly Ananias and Tertullus are counting on political favor rather than on truth:
“’But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man’” (Ac 24:14-16).
The Way of Jesus is no bunch of rebellious agitators; these Pharisees believe exactly what we do! This is a powerful summary of perfect unity with God and with his children. Paul continues:
“’Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia – they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. Or let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: “It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day”’” (Ac 24:17-21).
Calmly Paul concludes his defense pointing out that claiming the resurrection of the dead is not a dire threat to either the Jewish faith or the Roman Empire!
Hurry back next time to see a political maneuver worthy of our own gridlocked U. S. Congress!