Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 4 2013 - Acts 22:17-23:10 – The hope of resurrection

The Roman commander who had arrested Paul was astounded when he learnt that he was a Roman citizen. It meant that Paul could not be flogged or subjected to any other form of punishment without the due process of the Roman law. The commander needed to find out exactly what Paul had done to draw such opposition and hatred from the Jews. So he called the Jewish authorities to meet in his presence and set Paul before them. They could then bring their accusations against Paul and Paul would have the opportunity to defend himself.

As Paul declared that he had served God with a good conscience right down to this day, the high priest commanded that he be struck on the mouth. Paul was indignant in his response; he had come to be judged by the law yet had been struck unlawfully. Paul could see that he was not going to get a fair hearing in this setting.

So, knowing that his accusers were made up of both Pharisees and Sadducees, Paul proclaimed that he was a Pharisee and was on trial because of his hope of the resurrection of the dead. This divided the opposition with many of the Pharisees now siding with Paul and saying that they could not see that he had done anything wrong while the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection (or perhaps any form of afterlife) now argued not only against Paul but against the Pharisees in their party.

Paul’s words were more than a clever trick to divert attention from himself; his statement was genuine. For Paul, the gospel message centred in a belief in the resurrection of the dead. Much that Paul had learned at the feet of Gamaliel and had fired his imagination as a Pharisee remained with him to this day. He had believed all that was spoken in the Law and the prophets. He believed that God had determined to liberate his people from oppression as he had done before in the days of Moses. He believed that God would send a king to govern his people who would be greater than King David. He believed that when the Messiah came to establish his kingdom a new age would dawn, an age marked by the resurrection of the dead and the drawing of the Gentiles to the God of Israel. All this Paul had believed before; all this he continued to believe now.

But in another sense, all that Paul had believed had been turned upside down. He now knew that the Messiah had come. Jesus the crucified Messiah had been raised from the dead; he is the firstborn from the dead, the beginning and the guarantee of the general resurrection. His resurrection is a powerful demonstration by God that Jesus is the Christ and is Lord of all. The age to come has broken into the middle of history and God’s saving purposes have burst out of the confines of Judaism. The resurrection of the dead – Jesus’ resurrection – was foundational to Paul’s ministry, including his ministry to the Gentiles. Paul had not thrown off his Pharisaic beliefs; they had been confirmed, fulfilled and transformed with the coming of Jesus the Christ.

Father God, thank you that Jesus who died for us has been raised from the dead, exalted in the heavens and declared to be both Lord and Christ. Thank you that nothing can ever be the same again. By you Spirit, fill us with resurrection life and resurrection hope. And may that life burst out of the confines of our lives to embrace many of those whose lives we touch that at the name of Jesus every knee may bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Peter Misselbrook