Paul the Roman Citizen
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?”
In this chapter, Paul continues to try and convince his fellow Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. He tells them his story of how he was one of the most devout Jews, and was there for the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Then, he recounts his conversion story, as he was struck down by the light on the road to Damascus and met the Risen Jesus. Jesus said to him, "Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me!" Paul shared this in order to help his fellow Jewish brothers understand that he was like them, until he encountered Jesus. Then, when he shared God's call for him to leave Jerusalem and be sent to the Gentiles, the crowd went into an uproar. Why? It was unthinkable for someone to be sent to reach the Gentiles and insinuate that the Jews were partly responsible for it.
The uproar and rioting continued to the point where Paul's life was in danger. If it wasn't for the Roman Commander, we don't know what would have happened to Paul. As the Commander orders him to be stretched out and flogged, Paul brings up that it isn't right to punish a Roman citizen without first holding a trial. When the commander realizes he is a true citizen, he realizes he could get in trouble for this oversight, he has Paul released immediately. Then something happens that can only be explained by God's intervention. The Roman Commander is so curious as to why the crowds are furious with Paul, he orders the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of Jews) and the chief priests to assemble. He calls upon Paul to come and speak to them. We will see what happens tomorrow!
What I find intriguing is why are the Jews so angry with Paul that they want to kill him. He was clearly a zealous Jew, who had been trained under the greatest teachers of the Law, Gamaliel. He proves he was willing to persecute the very people he is now trying to reach. But when he tells his mission from Jesus is to leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles, they are enraged. Why are they so threatened by him? They are so ruled by pride and being in control, that they could not even consider what Paul was saying could be of God. They were completely not open to hear how this could have been a fulfillment of what they had studied their whole lives as religious leaders.
Here are my two conclusions:
1. God's sovereign plan allowed all these things to happen. God knew the Jews would reject him and told him as much.
2. God uses Paul's Roman citizenship to protect him from being fed to the riotous mob.
Ultimately Paul's missionary journey would lead him to Rome to testify before the Roman Emperor. Paul's obedience leads to God's miraculous intervention and the spread of the Good News to all nations. Though we often don't know what God is doing in our lives and circumstances, God is always working out His plan and He promises to be with us and deliver us! Remember this as God asks you to do something unexpected this year!