URC Daily Devotion Saturday 12th November 2022

 

Saturday 12 November 2022 
Acts 26: 1 – 11

 

Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.’ Then Paul stretched out his hand and began to defend himself: ‘I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defence today against all the accusations of the Jews,  because you are especially familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews; therefore I beg of you to listen to me patiently. ‘All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem.  They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I have belonged to the strictest sect of our religion and lived as a Pharisee. 
And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship day and night. It is for this hope, your Excellency, that I am accused by Jews!  Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? ‘Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death.  By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.

Reflection

Ask the Jews why Paul is on trial and they’ll tell you he’s steering people away from the teachings of Moses, the Law and the prophets.  Ask the Romans and their answer is he’s bringing chaos and if there’s one thing the Romans don’t like it’s chaos.  But ask Paul why he finds himself in jail for the last two years and his answer is simply I’m on trial because of the HOPE that I have.  Paul declares that confident affirmation that God is faithful and, as such, God will complete what he has begun. In return God’s people should demonstrate a confident expectation which waits patiently and enthusiastically for God’s purposes to be fulfilled.  But the Jews are having none of it.

Reading the defence of Paul before Agrippa, it’s easy to imagine Paul as simply rehearsing the ways in which he kept the faith as a zealous Jew in his pre-Damascus road days. He knows what he’s talking about. Becoming Paul doesn’t mean he’s changed religion or his God but rather he continues to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all the way to the hope of resurrection – in Jesus Christ.  And it is for this hope he now stands accused.

At the heart of his message is the claim that the resurrection which the Jews have been waiting for is not something in the future. It has already happened, and it has happened in Jesus.  If the Jews truly believe that God is the creator, the giver of life, then why shouldn’t God raise the dead? And why shouldn’t the resurrection of Jesus be the fulfilment of the hopeful promises God made through Moses, the law and the prophets? God’s new world has arrived, the hope of his promises are fulfilled.  Resurrection in Jesus Christ changes everything and, at the same time, fulfills everything. Resurrection bridges what Paul was to what Paul has become as it does with all who believe.  

Prayer

O God, the source of hope, 
fill me completely with joy and peace.
Help me to trust in your promises
so that I may overflow with confident hope
through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Amen.

(based on Romans 15:13)

 

 

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Nicola Furley-Smith, Secretary for Ministries

Copyright

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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