The Plot to Kill Paul

Acts 23:11-22

After being told that Paul was a Roman citizen, the tribune wanted to find out what Paul was being accused of, so he called a meeting of the Jewish leaders. Paul caused a rift between the Pharisees and the Sadducees by emphasizing that this was about Paul’s hope of the resurrection of the dead.  Since the Pharisees believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees did not, this caused a dissension between the two groups. The Pharisees ended up taking the stand that they found nothing wrong in Paul, and things started to turn violent. The tribune, fearing for Paul’s safety, took Paul back down into the barracks.

That night, Jesus came to Paul and told him that the plan was for Paul to testify for Jesus in Rome. So, now Paul knew for sure that somehow, he will eventually reach Rome.

Meanwhile more than forty Jews vowed to kill Paul, and that they would not eat nor drink until that task was accomplished. Their plot was to ask that Paul be brought to the council, and they would ambush him on the way.  But the son of Paul’s sister heard about it and told the tribune, who snuck Paul out to take him to Caesarea to meet with the governor Felix.

Due to v.11, both Paul and the readers know that Paul is going to make it to Rome, regardless of how much the enemy tries to prevent it by placing roadblocks in the way.

The first roadblock comes in the shape of the conspiracy to ambush Paul on the way to the council meeting. This is thwarted by the intelligence gathered by Paul’s nephew and the actions of the Roman tribune. Sometimes help comes from unexpected places. In this chapter we see the Pharisees siding with Paul, as well as a Roman tribune.

Paul understands that he will get to Rome, but he is probably going to endure hardships along the way. The only thing that is promised to him by God is that Paul will be a witness for the Lord in Rome. There is no promise of peace, prosperity or longevity in Paul’s earthly life. Yet, Paul seems content and determined to do the Lord’s will.

From the early stages of his life as a Christian, Paul expected hardships for his life going forward. If we look back to Acts 9, where Saul’s conversion to Paul happens, we see the Lord telling Ananias about His plans for Paul – “. . . for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  Ananias most likely informed Paul about what the Lord said about him, and Paul, being a devout follower of God, seemed to have accepted this as his role in life, as long as he was alive in this world.

Along with Paul’s sense of duty to do the will of the Lord, he also was convinced that this life is not all there is. There is an eternity that can be spent with the Lord and other believers, where there will no longer be suffering or having to deal with sins of yourself or others. This becomes apparent in his letters to the various churches.

Does this mean that Paul lived in misery? It does not seem to be the case. We see deep relationships he established with other believers who valued his fellowship and grieved when he parted. Paul didn’t pursue joy, but he found joy in doing the will of the Lord.  He did not pursue fame or fortune, so his contentment did not depend on those things.

We share with Paul the knowledge that if we have Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are assured of eternity with God and brothers and sisters in Christ. Regardless of what happens to us in this life, there will be eternal life that will be far better than this one.

Unlike Paul, we don’t have an inkling of where our final destination on earth will be – Our Rome. However, we do know that wherever our final earthly destination might be, all along our journey, we are to be witnesses for our Lord Jesus Christ.

J. R. R. Tolkien was a contemporary of C. S. Lewis.  They were both professors at Oxford and members of the Inklings, which met on Tuesdays to discuss and critique the literary works of fiction they were working on. Works such as “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Lord of the Rings” would go through this honing process.

I first read “The Lord of the Rings” while I was in college, and it is still one of my favorite series of books – Probably have read it more than seven times.  I was glad when Peter Jackson finally made a cinema version that captured the essence of the work. I always saw the journey of Frodo, the hobbit, as representing what our walk in faith should be. Frodo was not the strongest or the wisest, but he understood that a task that he did not want, nor was qualified for, fell into his lap and that it was his duty to try to carry it out. He was pretty sure that he would fail, but he understood that other people’s lives and peace were at stake. He sets off with a group, but things happen, and they get separated. People he thought he was going to depend on either betray him or part ways. He also gets unexpected help from others along the way.

We are probably more like Frodo than we are like Paul.  However, we and Paul share the same Lord and the same conviction that we are here to do the Lord’s will – To be witnesses of Jesus Christ, wherever and whenever we are.  Sometimes we receive help from unexpected places, and at other times, we are to be the unexpected help to others.

Let us be like Paul and not worry about the plots that might be against us, but be confident that the Lord knows what He is doing as He sends us along on our journey – A journey that is assured to end in the presence of the Lord.

(the above is a summary of the message shared by Shun Takano during our worship on Sept. 11, 2022)