Scripture

Acts 28:17-31

17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”

23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

26 “‘Go to this people and say,

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”

27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;

    they hardly hear with their ears,

    and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

    hear with their ears,

    understand with their hearts

and turn, and I would heal them.’

28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” [29]

30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

Reflection

Paul arrives in Rome and calls the Jewish leaders to meet with him. He knows what has been said about him all throughout his journeys. Rumors spread far and fast. He has heard all of the rumors and slander about why he’s doing what he’s doing. He wants to address any misunderstandings up front so we can then proceed to clarify his purpose and deliver the gospel. Paul clarifies his motivation in the face of what he assumes could be a hostile audience: “It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” The crowd’s response must have been somewhat surprising to Paul. They haven’t received letters or word saying anything bad about him. They are eager to hear what he has to say because they’ve heard a lot of talk about the followers of Jesus.

Remember the last time you had to make a phone call you didn’t want to make? Or, you had to sit down and meet with an individual or a group you were just dreading? I’m not talking to you if you’re someone who always tries to generally avoid speaking to another person directly. If you are that person, I want to encourage you to seek help in overcoming this disposition (see Matthew 18:15-20). I’m speaking to the times when you setup a meeting or a call, perhaps later than you should, because truth had to be spoken, problems needed to be resolved, course correction was in order. You assumed what you had to say would be met with resistance or maybe even hostility and then, to your surprise, the conversation went much better than you assumed. There was understanding and agreement! 

Paul has faced tremendous persecution because people have misunderstood his motivations and rejected his message. He is very intentional in making sure people understand his motivations. It is between the people and God how they respond to the message. Paul wants to make it clear that the choice people make to reject the message cannot be connected to the motivations of Paul or God. The heart and motivation driving Paul is a love and longing for Jews and Gentiles to receive God’s grace and turn towards Him in faith. As a result of the message, the responses are mixed. 

Sometimes in the midst of delivering hard truths where we have to speak the truth in love, our friends, family, co-workers, respond with understanding and agreement. However, the results and implications of the change often lead others to question the motivations and/or reject the outcome altogether. There is a cost of discipleship. 

When was the last time you were in an argument? What were your motivations? Is there anything outstanding that needs to be resolved? When you have to deliver hard news, do your friends understand you’re motivated by God’s love for them? 

Prayer

Holy God, we believe in you. Help our unbelief. Increase our faith so we pray believing for mountains to be moved and thrown into the sea. Remove from us the crippling doubt of the enemy who seeks to keep us from your love. We are believing for miracles. We are believing for deliverance. We are believing for healing now in Jesus’ name. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen. (taken from Mark 11:22-26).