Scripture

Acts 24:1-27

24 Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.

“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. [7] [a] By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”

The other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.

10 When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. 11 You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city.13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me.14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

17 “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 18 I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. 19 But there are some Jews from the province of Asia,  who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. 20 Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin— 21 unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’”

22 Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.

27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.

Reflection

Do you find the conclusion of Acts 24 disappointing? As I read this chapter, I wanted the Governor Felix to do the right thing. I wanted him to take a stand for truth, ignore political pressure, and pronounce Paul innocent. There seemed a moment in the text when this was possible, but it was not to be. 

God had plans for Paul to be a witness in Rome. So why didn't God orchestrate the heart of Felix to release him? I don't know. God’s ways are not my ways, and they almost always surprise me. In hindsight, I see that Paul might have been in more danger had he been released from custody. There was a large group of Jews still intent on killing him. And Paul had the opportunity to witness to Felix, repeatedly while imprisoned. Paul remained faithful, over and over, in the most dire of circumstances.

Though God did not work this out the way I wanted, I know the end of the story. Paul did make it to Rome and witnessed to perhaps thousands of people in his lifetime. God still maintained his promises to Paul. He just did not do it in the way I would have chosen.

We have to be aware of our sometimes mechanical view of God’s guidance and answer to prayers. Sometimes doing what is right results in suffering and persecution. And sometimes straying from God’s path holds no suffering at all. As human beings, we tend to equate the goodness of God, or blessings, with prosperity, physical health, emotional well-being and the general lack of problems. But I have found that often the greatest blessings happen in the midst of immense suffering. The nearness of God is often realized in the darkest moments of our life. The Lord was nearer to Paul in his confinement (Acts 23:11) than he was at other times.

God does not seek to make us suffer. That is not in the nature of the good and beautiful God we worship. God works in the midst of good and bad, joy and pain. God draws near to those in pain and draws others to our side when we suffer. Jesus put it like this:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:3-4


Prayer

Dear God, Give me the wisdom to take steps toward you and your plans for me. Give me insight when I need to change paths, and strength to endure hardships along the way. Share your vision with me and let me join you in your work. I offer all I am and all I have to you for your purposes. I know you are with me every step of the way, even if it is not the right step. Thank you for your daily grace and mercy, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.