- to locate Jerusalem on a map
- to communicate the main differences between the beliefs of the Pharisees and the Sadducees
- to vocalize how many soldiers are under a Centurion
- to explain perseverance during trials
Paul travels from Jerusalem back to Caesarea.
Review is important for this lesson, or meaning will be lost. Remember, before Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was a Jewish Pharisee persecuting people of The Way with the blessings and backing of the Jewish Counsel. The Pharisees and Sadducees were always at odds with each other. Pharisees believed in angels, spirits, and the possibility of resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees did not believe in any of that. (Hence they were “Sad – you – see!”)
What had Jesus done that was so terrible to the Jewish Counsel? Besides the obvious claims of Him being God, the fact that Jesus cast out demons, stated He could call upon angels at any time, and had the power to raise people from the dead, this was enough to get ALL Sadducees against Him. With his actions of love alone, Jesus was stating that the belief system of those leaders was dead wrong. Jesus even verbally accused some of the leaders of being whitewashed tombs. Beautiful on the outside and dead on the inside.
Main Events of Acts 23:
The Roman Commander, who “saved” Paul from being beaten by a mob of Jews, called the Jewish Counsel to appear before him. He presented Paul to the Counsel with the understanding that Paul had done something that went against Jewish Law and that the Jewish Leaders would bring charges against him. Paul stated, “I have done nothing wrong in front of God before today.” The High Priest commanded a soldier to strike Paul in the mouth and he did. Paul argued back saying, “God will strike you, you white washed wall!” (Remind you of Someone?) A voice cried out, “Didn’t you know he was the High Priest?” Paul replied, “I did not know he was the High Priest. Scripture says to not speak evil of a ruler of the people.”
Paul was a clever man. He figured out that the Counsel represented both Pharisees and Sadducees and he used this to his advantage. “I am a Pharisee and am being judged on the hope of resurrection of the dead!” accused Paul. And he wasn’t lying, he was preaching the resurrection of Jesus!
All chaos broke loose. Both sides argued the same arguments they always argued about. The Pharisees were saying that they found no fault in Paul and great dissension took place. So much so, that the Commander removed Paul from the room in fear that he would be ripped to pieces. Paul was led back to the barracks.
That night the Lord stood by Paul. (How awesome and encouraging is that?!?) The Lord told Paul, “Be of good cheer! You are also going to be My witness in Rome just as you are here in Jerusalem.” So at this point, Paul knew the Jews would not kill him now. He would be making a trip to Rome.
The next day, 40 Jews form a conspiracy against Paul. They pledge to not eat or drink until they killed him. Somehow Paul’s nephew heard of the plot and he told Paul, who in turn told his nephew to tell a centurion, who in turn took the young man to the Commander. The Commander took this threat seriously; and that night, around 9:00, under the cover of darkness, 200 soldiers, 70 horseman, and 200 spearmen prepared to take Paul to the Governor in Caesarea.
Along with the 470 men, and Paul, the Commander sent a letter to the Governor that basically stated, “This man was accused by the Jews. I saved him. He is a Roman citizen. There are no charges against him deserving death or chains.” At least the Commander thought Paul was innocent!
“Be of good cheer!” the Lord told Paul. Really?!? Be of good cheer? He was being falsely accused, people wanted him dead, he was locked in a jail, and he wasn’t getting to spread the gospel as Jesus wanted him to. Really?!? God’s ways are not our ways. Many trials we face are for the explicit reason for “getting us to Rome,” so God can get us to a point of life where He can further His gospel through us.
Maybe you are going through a trial now that will allow you to be a “witness in Rome” and reach people for Jesus who would not have heard the gospel if you hadn’t gone through this trial.
Be of good cheer!