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Hating Jesus And His People

Acts 23:12-15
The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, 'We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.' (NIVUK)

These verses are difficult to read. Devout religious people, who claimed to love and worship God, were so full of hatred towards Paul: they bound themselves with an oath, not to eat or drink, until they had killed him. The previous evening the Sanhedrin Council had heard Paul speak about his belief in the resurrection (Acts 23:6), which the Pharisees on the Council applauded. However, the Sadducees were so enraged (they did not believe in any after-life) they became violent in the court and the soldiers had to remove Paul for his own protection (Acts 23:7-10).

The following morning it seems that the Pharisees and Sadducees put their theological differences aside. They were united in their common desire to get rid of Paul. In a way, their problem was not Paul, but what he was saying about Jesus. Paul taught that Jesus was alive, and that His death provided forgiveness for sins, and adoption into God's family for everybody who believed, including Gentiles (Romans 3:21-26). The religious leaders were convinced that God only loved the people of their religion. They could not understand that God loves everybody so much that He gave Jesus to bear the sins of the world so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life with Him (John 3:16).

Their murderous plan was agreed by the top religious authorities. With the pretext of getting more information from Paul, the Chief Priests were to ask the military commander of the city to bring Paul to the Sanhedrin Council. But on the way, the conspirators would set an ambush. Paul would be killed, the Council would not step outside the Roman law, the assassins would slip away and the Christians would stop talking about Jesus, for fear of what might happen to them.

It is difficult to say, but some people still hate Jesus Christ, and His followers. Even some people who claim to worship God are full of passion in their desire to remove Christians. The idea, that God wants everybody to be saved through Jesus, is too offensive for them. So they will do whatever they can, and take whatever opportunity arises, to remove the savoury smell of Christ from where they live and work (2 Corinthians 2:14-17). But, like Paul, we should continue to love them and live as Jesus did, because it is only through Jesus that people who love death can receive life (2 Corinthians 4:10-12). 1 Peter 4:19 says, "So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."

Sovereign Lord. Thank You for your amazing love to people who hate and despise You and Your people. Forgive me for not trusting You more; and for reducing my Christian witness until nobody can see it. Please help me to commit myself to You so that my lifestyle is governed by what You say and what pleases You and not by fear of people who hate me – so that I can testify to the love of Christ, and some of my accusers will receive new life as they also trust in Jesus. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams