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Archive for May 20th, 2019


Acts 26:24-25: Reactions to Paul’s Speech

Monday, May 20, 2019

Richard Serrin: Paul in Chains

Paul presents a defense to King Agrippa of his work with The Way in Chapter 26 of Acts and these two verses give a succinct report of the reaction to his words. He is “speaking words of truth and reason” yet people think he is “mad.” You may want to read further into Acts to see how the courtroom scene continues to play out.

Paul’s experience tells us this: Having people believe that we are crazy is often the cost of discipleship.

We hear God’s word, we convert ourselves, we begin to perform acts of truth and mercy and reason, we do God’s work, we no longer fit the mold we were in, we move out and into a strange and liminal newness . . . and others notice this. They do not like the change of dynamic. They were comfortable with “the way things were.” They want the old “games” to continue. Our newness is a challenge to the “oldness.” We are new wine in old wine skins . . . and the old skins know that they will break. So, much like Paul before the Pharisees and King Agrippa, we will encounter derision.

In each of the Gospels we hear the story of the crippled man whom Jesus cures and in each version of this story (Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:11, Luke 5:24, John 5:8) Jesus tells the man to take up his mat and walk.  In the Synoptic Gospels all are amazed; in John’s story Jesus causes a stir because he heals this man on the Sabbath – a day when no work is permitted . . . not even the carrying of a mat.  We notice that Jesus supersedes this old Sabbath law and heals those who ask for his help regardless of the day or time.  In Mark’s Gospel the man’s companions lower him through the roof of a house and challenge even the rules of physics by bringing their friend into the very space where Jesus stands.  We wonder if we are persistent enough to act in this way for our own friends.

We notice something else about these stories.  Jesus does not tell the man he heals to walk away from the mat that has served as his home for so long, nor does he say that the mat is to be hidden in any way; rather, Jesus says: Go and take your mat with youThe mat becomes a symbol of what has been endured and overcome through the healing generosity of Christ.  We can choose to see our own mat as a burden and curse . . . or we can choose to see it as a symbol of God’s love for us and his presence in our lives.   The manner in which Paul defends himself and his story before Agrippa reminds us of the mat which he has taken up in Christ’s name – his work with and for God.

A few days ago I was asking what I should do with the mat I now carry around which serves as an outward sign of my work with and for God. Paul gives me an answer.  He does not fear the derision or persecution that may follow.  And he regards his “mat” with honor rather than embarrassment.   Paul is not afraid to be amazed by and though and for Christ.  He moves forward, still with the mat; and in quiet, persistent confidence in God and God’s plan, he does not back down, he does not step away. He stands and witnesses.

And so must we step forward.  So must we witness in truth.  So must we act . . . for who can say what effect our words and actions will have on ourselves and others? Perhaps, like Paul, we will hear the words he heard from the Agrippa before whom we stand to testify, “You will soon persuade me to play the Christian.”


A re-post from May 5, 2012.

For a blog on the Cost of Discipleship with poetry and reflections, click on the image above or go to: http://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com/2012/02/unquenchable-desire.html

First written on March 22, 2007 and re-written today as a Favorite.

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