Acts 23: Divide and conquer

January 20th, 2007

If you’re being pursued by hounds, one way to try to get them off your track is to throw them a lump of fresh meat. Then hopefully they will concentrate on the meat and start fighting each other over it, and forget about you. That was essentially the approach taken by Paul in today’s reading as he was being examined before the Jewish high council, the Sanhedrin. In an angry mob, people aren’t always angry for the same reasons. People who are susceptible to getting angry are usually motivated to anger by more than one thing, so if you can find something else for them to get angry about, maybe you can deflect the focus away from yourself.

The Acts of the Apostles — Chapter 23

23:1 Paul looked resolutely at the council and said, “Brothers, I have lived before God in all good conscience until today.” 23:2 The high priest, Ananias, commanded those who were next to him to slap him on the mouth. 23:3 Then Paul said, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit to judge me according to the law, but order me to be struck contrary to the law.”

23:4 People who were near him said, “You are insulting God’s high priest.” 23:5 Paul said, “I was unaware, brothers, that he was high priest. It is written, ‘Do not speak evil about a leader of your people.'” 23:6 Paul could see that some of them were Sadducees and others Pharisees, he shouted, “Men and brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial because of the hope and resurrection of the dead!”

23:7 When he had said this, an argument occurred between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 23:8 The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and no angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these. 23:9 There was a great commotion, and some of the religious lawyers who were Pharisees stood up to say, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Perhaps a spirit or angel has spoken to him.” 23:10 The dispute became more intense, and the commander was worried that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He instructed the soldiers to go down to seize him from amongst them, and bring him into the barracks.

23:11 The next night, the Lord appeared to him and said, “Be encouraged, Paul, because just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, you will also testify in Rome.”

23:12 When it was day, some of the Jews formed a conspiracy and pledged not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 23:13 There were more than forty people in this conspiracy. 23:14 They went to the senior priests and elders, saying, “We have pledged to eat nothing until we have killed Paul. 23:15 So tell the commander, with the support of the council, to bring Paul out to you tomorrow, pretending that you want to establish the facts of his case more clearly. We are ready to kill him on the way.”

23:16 Paul’s nephew found out about the ambush and went to the barracks to tell Paul. 23:17 Paul summoned one of the centurions, and said, “Take this young man to the commander. He has something to tell him.” 23:18 So he took him to the commander, and said, “Paul, the prisoner, summoned me and asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to tell you.” 23:19 The commander took him by the arm, led him aside privately, and asked, “What do you have to tell me?” 23:20 He said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul to the council tomorrow, pretending that they want to establish the facts of his case more clearly. 23:21 Don’t agree to this, because over forty men are lying in wait, after pledging not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for you to agree.”

23:22 The commander let the young man go, warning him not to let anyone know that he had reported this information. 23:23 He summoned two centurions and said, “Get two hundred soldiers ready to go to Caesarea at 9 o’clock tonight, with seventy horsemen, and two hundred men armed with spears. 23:24 Provide a horse for Paul to ride, and take him safely to Felix the governor.” 23:25 He wrote a letter as follows:

23:26 “Claudius Lysias to the most excellent governor Felix: Greetings. 23:27 This man had been seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them, when I arrived with some soldiers to rescue him, having learned that he was a Roman. 23:28 I took him to their council to find out what they had against him. 23:29 I found that the accusations related to questions of their law. There was nothing worthy of imprisonment or death. 23:30 I was informed that the Jews were laying in wait for the man, so I sent him to you at once, instructing his accusers also to present their case against him before you. Farewell.”

23:31 So the soldiers carried out their orders. They took Paul by night to Antipatris. 23:32 The following day they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the barracks. 23:33 The horsemen arrived in Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, together with Paul. 23:34 When the governor had read it, he asked what province Paul was from. When he understood that he was from Cilicia, he said, 23:35 “I will hear you when your accusers arrive.” He commanded that Paul be kept in Herod’s palace.

Entry Filed under: Courage

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. » Esc&hellip  |  January 9th, 2010 at 8:06 am

    […] each other over it, and forget about you. That was essentially the approach taken by Paul in Acts chapter 23 as he was being examined before the Jewish high council, the […]

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