Thursday, October 24, 2013

Paul, Romans, Political Chess (Acts 25)

1. So the Roman governor Felix has been looking for a bribe from Paul for a couple years. I do suspect that Paul brought a sizable amount of money to Jerusalem as a gift/peace offering to the church of Jerusalem. Paul seems to play dumb.

There are many places in the world where bribes are business as usual. Is it appropriate to pay a bribe to a government official to get medical supplies through customs and into a country, for example? It's a sign of a deficient system, yes, dare I say an inferior society. But can it simply be a cultural element that is considered appropriate for doing business in certain places, like a fee?  I suspect great wisdom is necessary here, not because of abstract rules (that answer, I think, is culturally unaware of how extensively our sense of ethics is affected by our own culture) but because of long term consequences.

2.  Festus forces Paul's hand. He suggests Paul go to Jerusalem to stand trial. If the earlier assassins kept their vow, they're all dead, but presumably there were others willing to take their place. The year is around AD60, six years before the Jewish War would break out and eventually spell Jerusalem's demise.

Paul's statement that he had not broken the Jewish Law or done anything against the temple or Caesar is significant. Now Luke has that on the record for posterity.

Paul appeals to Caesar, the right of a Roman citizen. He reminds me of Socrates here. Might be interesting to thumb through Plato's Apology and see if he says anything about being willing do die if he deserves it.  He willingly drank the hemlock after being convicted. Acts 4 also echoed the Apology, when Peter says it is better to obey God over mortals.

3. The rest of the chapter introduces Herod Agrippa II to us. This is the son of the Agrippa who killed the apostle James, son of Zebedee. Of all the Herods, he is the only one portrayed favorably in the New Testament. Herod the Great killed the babies in Bethlehem. Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist.

Again, a recurring theme Luke wanted to get across to his audience, is Paul's innocent (similar to Jesus). Festus tells Agrippa that the complaints about Paul had to do with Jewish matters and his claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Agrippa wants to hear him.

4. Typical monologuing by Festus. What should I charge him with? Help me out here, Agrippa. He has done nothing deserving of death. This again is a nudge to the audience, I think. Paul should not have been put to death by Caesar. Christians are not troublemakers although others give them plenty of trouble...

1 comment:

Susan Moore said...

The word “king” is a good one to study. After your previous blog on “Proclaiming the Lord”, I was thinking you might go to “king” next.
The first use of the word “king” (Hebrew word “Melek”) is in Genesis 14:12 and refers to a physical ruler of a physical place. But soon after that, God Himself gives us the heads-up that He’s going to change the reference for that word. In Gen. 17:6 God spoke to Abraham, the father of the Christian faith (Rom. 4), and told him, “kings shall come out of thee” (KJV).
Isaiah 33:22 identifies the Lord as the King (and savior), “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our King: He will save us.”
Then in Isaiah 44:6 God anoints that belief and identifies Himself as the Lord King, “Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and His redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.”
Then Isaiah 60:3 is a very cool identity verse that is also prophetic about us, God’s plan for redeeming the world, “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”
Zechariah prophesizes in 9:9 that the king will come into Jerusalem riding on an untrained donkey, and Matthew 21:5 is the fulfillment of that prophesy as Jesus rides into Jerusalem on an untrained donkey (Greek word for king, “Basileus”). In Matt. 21:3 Jesus had already identified Himself as the Lord. So within two verses and in one setting we have Jesus declaring Himself to be the one who is both the Lord and the King of Israel.
In 1 Tim. 6:15 Paul refers to the risen Christ who dwells in light as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
In Rev. 17:14 John refers to the glorified Christ as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
And in Rev. 19:16 Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb and the Word of God and the Lord King, has inscribed on His thigh His name, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
In its completed transposition the word “king” assumes its spiritual reference to us; the kings of the earth. In the final usage of the word “king” we are the glorified ambassadors of Christ in heaven, where “the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it” (Rev. 21:22-27 NIV). And with that we have the fulfilled prophesies of the first reference to “king” in Gen. 14:12, and also Isaiah 60:3; “Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10b).
Thus, over time through the writings of the Bible, God takes the seen physical things as described in the OT (in this case a king), and transposes its noun (in this case) to finally refer to an unseen spiritual thing (in this case, us, the glorified ambassadors of Christ); and in that way, in His one book, the Word reveals to us the unseen, spiritual realm.
Such is the intentional and repeated pattern of the linguistic meta-language that I call The Common Language of God.
Wouldn’t this be great to study and/or map out in Seminary?!