Final assignment

Paul’s appearance before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem bore remarkable resemblance to Jesus’ appearance before the Jewish authorities on the night of his crucifixion. It says in John 18:19-23, “The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. Jesus answered him, ‘I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.’ And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, ‘Do You answer the high priest like that?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?'” (NKJV).

Paul’s situation was similar, but when the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to strike Paul on the mouth, he responded, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?” (Acts 23:3, NKJV). Paul’s feisty response may have gained him some respect with the council because he was able to convince the scribes of the Pharisees to listen to what he had to say. Afterward, they responded, “We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God” (Acts 23:9). Paul’s reprieve from judgment may actually have been the result of a divine intervention. It says in Acts 23:11, “But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.'”

Paul understood his final assignment from Jesus to be that he was to share his personal testimony with the Roman emperor. When Paul later appeared before the governor Festus and was told his trial would be conducted in Jerusalem, Paul responded, “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

Paul’s determination to reach Rome was hindered by many natural and spiritual disasters. His first obstacle was a conspiracy to kill him before he could be taken out of Jerusalem (Acts 23:12-13). Paul’s sister’s son heard about this plot and informed Paul he was in danger (Acts 23:16). In an amazing rescue effort, Paul was smuggled out of the city of Jerusalem by the Roman chief captain that was responsible for guarding him (Acts 23:23-24). Paul was taken to a military post 30 miles from Jerusalem between Samaria and Judea where he remained for the next two years. During that time, Paul prepared himself for his final assignment of appearing before Nero by repeatedly sharing his testimony with the various Roman officials he came in contact with.

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