22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”
23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air,24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”
26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”
27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes, I am,” he answered.
28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.”
“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.
29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
Paul Before the Sanhedrin
30 The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. So the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.
Here is the last verse from yesterday’s reading: “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” And here is the first verse from today’s reading: The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” They were with him in his conversion story at Damascus, until he said the word “Gentile.” This sent them into riot mode again! The Jewish people could not stand the idea that God might save Jews and Gentiles alike and in the same way. The Jews of that day did not have a problem with Gentiles becoming Jews. But they were incredibly offended at the thought of Gentiles becoming Christians just as Jews became Christians because it implied that Jews and Gentiles were equal, having come to God on the same terms. This didn't seem fair.
Their ethnic pride caused a paralysis of heart and mind. All reason left the crowd as they became “blind” to the gospel truth. This truth, the message of Jesus that Paul preached is that all may come to God just as you are – Jew, Gentile, foreigner, rich, poor, educated or not – but you must come to God through Jesus Christ.
I wonder how often we become just like that crowd. We intellectually know grace is a free gift offered to all, but practically we don’t like it when it seems “more free” to someone else. Perhaps there is someone who doesn't seem as worthy of grace as you think they should be. Is there someone about which you think, “Surely God doesn't mean grace is for them too.” Are you allowing your own pride and perhaps prejudice blind you to the truth?
Dear God, I desire to live fully into who you call me to be. Show me the steps to take every day. Give me wisdom to discern your ways and courage to follow. Let me be a light in the world drawing others to you. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.