7–13 May 2017.
The story of Paul’s arrest and trial in Jerusalem looks very familiar. That’s because many of the things Paul goes through were the same things that Christ faced in his own trial. There is the angry and violent crowd, and the charge of blasphemy. There’s the Roman figure of authority who must stand between the accused and the angry mob and try to make sense of why people want a harmless man killed. And there is also the trial before the Sanhedrin, and even the same shocking slap to the face (see John 18:22). Reading this, we get the feeling that Paul hasn’t just become a great missionary for Christ, but that in his own life Paul is starting to become more and more like Jesus himself. Since that first day when Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul’s faith has been changing him little by little to make him more like Jesus, and make his life more Christ-like.
That’s what our faith should do. It should push us every day to become more like Jesus, to become more like God. It should push us to grow in love, compassion, and justice just like Jesus, and drive us to really reflect Jesus in our world.
We see a shocking contrast between Paul, the man of faith, and the religious people attacking him. We must not forget that the people calling for Paul’s death were not unbelievers, they were people who said they believed in God – people of the temple, people raised in the faith. But look at how they act. They turn into a vicious mob, violently rioting, threatening the city, stripping off their clothes in rage, and throwing mud and dirt through the air. Is that how good believers behave? Is that what it means to be like God? In the Sanhedrin even the high priest acts like a bully, ordering Paul be hit in the face and then still wanting to be respected as a “man of God”! With such behaviour, it’s no wonder Paul didn’t realize the man was the high priest.
We can call ourselves whatever we like, but in the end we know that our actions will always speak louder than words. It’s our actions, especially the way we treat others, that really show whether we are living a life of faith or whether it’s all just pretend. That’s a good reminder for us to keep praying every day that Christ may really change us and make us more and more like him.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis