Scripture

Acts 23:12-35

The Plot to Kill Paul

12 The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul.13 More than forty men were involved in this plot.14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul.15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”

16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.

17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.”18 So he took him to the commander.

The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”

19 The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”

20 He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him.21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.”

22 The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”

Paul Transferred to Caesarea

23 Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight.24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.”

25 He wrote a letter as follows:

26 Claudius Lysias,

To His Excellency, Governor Felix:

Greetings.

27 This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen.28 I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin.29 I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment.30 When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.

31 So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris.32 The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks.33 When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him.34 The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia,35 he said, “I will hear your case when your accusers get here.” Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.

Reflection

The Jews in this passage are pretty determined. They are so eager to kill Paul, that they committed to not eating or drinking until they did so. Forty of them. Forty Jewish men, religious men, trying to follow God, who said, “Thou shall not murder” were seeking to kill a man because he had different beliefs about their faith. Because Paul was teaching others about Jesus and the number of Christians was growing, these forty men of faith felt they had to take Paul out of the equation in order to secure the faith of their fathers.

I don’t know about you, but this just strikes me as ironic. In order to protect their faith, these men committed to doing something that goes completely against their faith. The baseline problem is that they felt they had to protect their faith. Really? Was their image of God so small that they didn't think God could handle differing beliefs? In context, the Jewish people had been through a lot over thousands of years, and they probably were a bit defensive of their belief system. I get it. And at the same time, this was not a war over land, or which God to worship. This was a battle involving the same God. One group saw God as being revealed in Jesus Christ, and the other did not. Paul was not preaching that the Jewish people should give up their God, rather that there was a new way of looking at him. Paul believed there was a new saving grace, a new path to salvation for all people.

If we are honest, it was probably that last part that got those men so angry and ready to kill Paul. It was the idea that the Jewish God was also a God for the Gentiles.

Unfortunately, this attitude of the forty Jewish men remains today in many forms. It shows up in many forms of discrimination, racism and extremism. Any time we think God isn't big enough to include that person over there, for whatever reason, we are not worshiping the God who revealed himself in Jesus. Because that God is big enough for everyone.

Is there anyone you have been reluctant to include in the family of God?

Prayer

God, I commit my way to you. I am ready to follow your call, no matter the direction. Guide me with your Spirit and give me courage to follow you closely. May I continue to grow in my trust and faith in you, oh Lord. You are my rock and my redeemer. Thank you for loving me so. Amen.