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The Resurrection Offence

Acts 24:17-21
'After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin – unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: "It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today."' (NIVUK)

After Paul's opponents had tried to kill him in Jerusalem, the military took him into protective custody. Threats against his life continued and so he was moved north during the night, with a large military escort, to the fortress in Caeserea. That was where Governor Felix ruled the northern territories of Syria, including Tarsus in Cilicia - Paul's home town. Tarsus was a special Roman city; everyone born there was automatically a Roman citizen, giving Paul privileges including the protection of a fair trial.

So, after Paul's accusers presented their false case against him (Acts 24:5-9), Felix invited Paul to defend himself. The Apostle told the truth, that he had fulfilled all of the Jewish ceremonial law in coming to the temple to worship, even undergoing a purification ceremony. He created no disturbance. But people, from what is now Turkey who were also in Jerusalem for the Pentecost festival, protested against his gospel preaching and incited the crowds to attack him (Acts 21:27-28). But they were not present in the Caeserea court; only the chief priests and some leaders from Jerusalem.

So, in the court Paul admitted what the chief priests had heard him say: that he believed in the resurrection (Acts 23:6-8). That was the statement which had caused an uproar in the Sanhedrin Council. The Pharisees said they also believed, but the Sadducees did not: so they argued violently. But even when Paul was a Pharisee, he did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, until Jesus spoke to him. After that, Paul wanted to tell everybody that Jesus is alive; God's Messiah, God the Son. Even though all in Israel prayed for Messiah to come, they did not recognise Jesus (John 1:10-13), and the same Sanhedrin court demanded his death (Matthew 26:57-66).

Jesus died for our sins and was raised so that we might be justified (Romans 4:25). It is the basis of the gospel message. But it is not popular. That message is considered to be offensive or foolish by both religious and secular people (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). But there is no other message which can bring people to salvation: which is why Paul continued to announce that Jesus, who died, is alive. Of course it offended the religious leaders who had sentenced Him to death. It may well offend your friends and colleagues too. But unless they know the truth, they cannot be saved. That is why all who love Jesus should not be ashamed of speaking about the living, loving, saving Jesus (Romans 1:16).

Living Lord. Thank You that Jesus is alive, assuring me that His sacrifice for my sin is accepted, and that I can know Him personally. Forgive me for my fear, or even shame, in speaking about my Saviour. Please give me such grateful love for Jesus that I will not be ashamed to speak about Him. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams