Day 56: The Judge & Truth & Peace (Acts 24:1-27)
Today’s Passage: Acts 24:1-27
In the previous post, I mused about how God allows us to put him on trial. It is interesting that as humans, in our longing for justice, we turn to the courts. Throughout the years, television shows about Lawyers and Courtrooms are popular. Perhaps you have a favorite one?
These shows appeal to our intrinsic desire for truth and justice and fairness—all traits I would suggest we possess because we are made in the image of God. My sense is that we want peace. I know it comes about, not in a forced way, but in a manner where truth is present. Finding that truth is often the job of the judge.
This human longing is on display today in the text, which begins with some high courtroom drama.
Yet on the wall, behind the judge in this court room, you will NOT find the words, “In God we Trust”. The story today puts Paul and his presentation of Jesus, right in the middle of a worldly courtroom. This scene, of people seeking to manipulate the courts for their unlawful motives, is one that has repeated itself through the ages.
The events, as recalled, really expose the deviousness of Paul’s accusers. How they are seeking to use the court to bring about the death of an innocent man.
They start off by expressing gratitude to, and complimenting Felix for peace. The irony of this statement is that he was especially known for his brutality against the Jews.
Next, they level their first accusation against Paul—that he is a trouble maker, stirring up riots. Of course, this is a lie. They are appealing to Felix’s paranoia asserting that Paul is a threat to the State.
Further, that Paul is the leader of a religious sect. In the Greek it implies a heretical sect, one that really isn’t Biblical. This is another falsehood. Here they are appealing to Felix’s need to keep the Jews properly managed. If Paul is indeed a threat to the Church, then Felix’s control is in jeopardy.
Finally, that he tried to desecrate the Temple. Again, not true. We need to appreciate that the Romans prescribed a death sentence for this offense, as for the others.
Bottom Line: if truth and justice do not prevail, Paul will not only not have peace, he will face death.
Paul again not only exposes their lack of proof for all three allegations. He cites examples of how Felix can verify the truthfulness of his claims, and he even challenges them legally because the absence of the Asian Jews (verse 19) was a breach of Roman law.
It is high drama…yet there is more to this chapter…you might say that Paul refuting his opponents is nothing new for us, as readers of Acts…but then the chapter closes with this rather bizarre statement that there will be no further public hearing for 2 years. Yet during those intervening 2 years the search for truth and peace continues.
Consider Felix, and his wife, Drusilla. Drusilla was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I, whose opposition and death Luke has described earlier (12:1–23). She was therefore the sister of King Agrippa II and of Bernice, to whom Luke will introduce us in the next chapters (25: 13, 23; 26: 30). She had a reputation for ravishing youthful beauty, on account of which Felix, with the aid of a Cypriot magician, had seduced her from her rightful husband and secured her for himself. She was, in fact, his third wife. (From The Bible Speaks Today series).
The lax morals of Felix and Drusilla help to explain the topics on which Paul spoke to them.
Notice in verse 25 what he spoke with them about: Jesus Christ, righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come—it is no wonder, given Felix’s nature and situation, he was alarmed!
You would have thought Felix would want to get rid of this character, yet he not only kept him around, he “sent for him often”. (verse 26).
The text says Felix was looking for a bribe, but I get the sense that more was going on. Felix is looking for truth and peace. He is not merely judging Paul’s situation—he now must judge his own.
God was giving Felix and Drusilla the opportunity to hear the Word of God, repent and turn to Jesus.
Even the most hardened hearts, when confronted by the Truth of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, know they are in the wrong. Have you ever had that feeling? It is unsettling. You have no peace. The intrinsic human desire for truth and justice impinge on your sin-filled heart—and you feel convicted.
It appears as if Felix and Drusilla did not respond to the two-year call of God, offered through Paul.
I am left at the end of this chapter in a very different place then I started. I started pointing my finger at the mob trying to lynch Paul, then I moved to Felix, and I am ending in that very personal spot of considering my constant need for repentance. What parts of my life has God been calling me to repentance, and yet I have delayed.
I am not trying to be morose, simply biblical. None of us are perfect. None of us has reached “completion”. Yes, if we have received Jesus we are saved and will be with him in eternity. But our life’s journey of being more like Jesus is one where we have the courage to look at self and ask that disturbing question—where in my life do I need to repent—facing into that truth, will bring peace.