Check out all the previous Acts readings here.
Acts Reading Plan | Week 16 | Day 5
As you come to spend time with Jesus, calm your mind and body until you feel fully present.
Psalm 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” You might open your time with Jesus with a “cry”, bringing to him what troubles you. Or you may open with a praise about when he heard your cry and answered your prayer.
Bible Reading: Acts 24
Read these verses three times slowly.
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. 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.
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. You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 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. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 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, 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. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.
“After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 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. 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. Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin— 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.’”
Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.” 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.
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. 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.” At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.
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 & Questions
In today’s reading, Paul and his accusers make their opposing cases to the governor. His accusers lie, saying that Paul has stirred up riots, when in fact, that is what they have done. Paul defends himself. He denies stirring up riots, but gladly admits to worshiping God “as a follower of the Way.” “The Way” was how the Christian faith was referred to in the early days after Jesus.
What’s striking in this story, is not perhaps the debate back and forth, but what happens at the end of this hearing. Paul is left in prison. In fact, we’re told two years pass and a new governor is appointed, as he leaves Paul in prison. Paul isn’t able to count down the days until he’s released. He’s stuck in an ever-repeating groundhog day of sitting in a prison waiting to be released.
What does Paul do in the midst of this terrible groundhog day existence? He often gets an audience with the governor and “spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.” We also know that he used the time to write letters to the churches he had planted. Those letters would come to be known as a significant part of the New Testament that have helped Christians to this day.
While humanly we might look at Paul’s circumstances as unbearable, Paul seizes the opportunity and uses it to do God’s work. You may be walking through unbearable days right now. But take the example of Paul and look for ways to do good. Seizing this moment for doing God’s work may well make the unbearable, bearable.
- How do you think you would have responded to Paul’s situation? Why?
- If you’re in a tough situation right now, is there anything you can do in it to seize it for good and for God’s glory?
Talk to God in response to the reading today.
You might use this song today to worship Jesus today:
Check out more Bible Reading Plans here.