Today’s Chocolate: Parra White Chocolate with Almonds
Today’s Passage: Acts 22
Where we last left our hero, he had just
won a debate against the minds of Mount Rushmore begun to address the crowd in Jerusalem. He begins to tell his story, but he doesn’t get very far before things go kinda south.
In modern Christianese, Paul’s address to the crowd is what we’d call a “personal testimony.” And while Paul’s Damascus Road encounter with the risen Christ has achieved modern-day ubiquity, it’s easy to forget that the story was probably new to a large chunk of the crowd. He shapes his testimony to answer his audience’s concerns that he’s sold out his Jewishness. He was a Jew, and he still is: “educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today” (3). Remember Gamaliel? Back in Acts 5, he recommended that the Jewish Council at Jerusalem take a wait-and-see agnostic position on the new Christian movement, seeing whether it can prove itself as having God’s backing. It’s odd to think that even as Gamaliel was cautioning against trying to snuff out Christianity, his student Paul was growing increasingly frothing-at-the-mouth hostile to the new believers–only to become one himself.
But Paul can’t get halfway through his testimony. When he gets to the part where God sends him to the Gentiles, the crowd flips out and refuses to let him finish. In fact, they start screaming, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!” (22). The NASB doesn’t exactly pack vitriol; what kind of weirdo gets angry and uses the word “fellow?” But the idea is that a guy like Paul ought to be wiped off the face of the earth for asserting that God might have something to give to the unwashed Gentiles. I like the Contemporary English Version’s rendering: “Get rid of this man! He doesn’t deserve to live!” The crowd straight-up loses their minds, and once again we’ve got a near-riot on our hands.
So the Roman commander asserts himself again, taking Paul back to the barracks. He intends to interrogate Paul by flogging, aiming to find out exactly what he did to set the crowd off. But Paul plays his “Roman citizen” card again, which not only exempts him from flogging but also gets him a chance to address the Council. Also, it freaks out the commander, who almost exercised unlawful brutality against a native-born citizen of the Empire. I can’t help thinking a part of Paul may be enjoying this.