The adventure continues in today’s chapter, at least until it ends. And since early childhood, I’ve associated the book of Acts with Paul’s snakebite from this chapter. I remember a Sunday school handout telling the story of the storm, shipwreck, and island encounter through text and illustrations. In a simple but realistic style, one of the drawings depicted Paul withdrawing from the campfire with a writhing snake clinging to his hand. It was exciting and a little bit scary, and it locked the idea into my head that sometimes missionaries have adventures. It was like the book of Acts itself had latched onto my brain with serpent teeth.
There’s an MC Frontalot/Baddd Spellah collaboration track titled “The Rhyme of the Nibelung,” translating Wagner’s opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung into hip-hop, as viewed through the eyes of an opera-illiterate spectator. Frontalot grouses confusedly through most of the opera, wondering who characters are, why they do what they do, and why there aren’t any hobbits, but finally gets into the action-packed finale. He exclaims: “I might even have to come back; wonder if they sell a ticket for just the third act?” And in some respects, over the years I’ve come to view the book of Acts in a similar way, because it’s twenty-seven chapters in before we get to seafaring adventures, storms, and shipwrecks.
The last time Paul attempted to present his testimony, a hostile crowd cut him off, calling for his life before he could finish. But today he gets a fresh opportunity, as King Herod Agrippa II allows him to make his defense. But while this is Agrippa’s first time hearing the story, it’s not ours. Paul’s testimony summarizes the same events that Luke has reported so far, the same events we’ve read. However, it differs from Luke’s own account!
Hey, everyone. Just to pull back the curtain for a moment, it’s Saturday as I write this, and I’m at my grandmother’s in Virginia for Mother’s Day. And now, to replace the curtain: in today’s chapter, Paul’s Jewish opponents pursue their spurious case against him. But even under a new governor, Paul proves himself a match for their machinations with an appeal to Caesar himself.
The events of today’s chapter are as follows: the Jewish authorities go before Governor Felix with their grievances against Paul. Paul gives his defense, asserting his innocence of any crime except believing in the resurrection of the dead, which of course is no crime at all. Felix dismisses the charges under the pretense of postponing his judgment, and Paul remains in protective custody for two years, during which time he has several opportunities to discuss religion and morality with the governor. But when the governorship passes from Felix to Porcius Festus, Felix decides to give the Jews a freebie and leaves Paul in prison. Now, having stated the events of today’s chapter, let us dissect them.
Paul is one shrewd dude. On two previous occasions, in order to outmaneuver Roman authorities who would otherwise punish him unjustly, we’ve seen him reveal his Roman Citizen Card (which is, of course, a trap card to be played face-down in the defense position). In today’s chapter, he shows he has more tricks up his sleeve, not only with the Romans, but with his own people.
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.
Today Paul finally arrives in Jerusalem. What awaits him there? Enemies, certainly, but also friends. For the first time since chapter 15’s concern over Gentile circumcision, we’ll see James again, and we’ll also see other disciples not mentioned by name. Philip even makes an appearance as Paul’s trip to Jerusalem takes him through Caesarea.
Today’s chapter, like the one before it, contains Paul stories, but the very first story would be “Paul went through Macedonia and Greece, and when he headed back through Macedonia he went from Philippi to Troas, and he was joined by seven guys.” In Troas, we see another story where a young man falls out a third-story window, but the bulk of the chapter consists of Paul’s address at Miletus. In these latter stories, Luke appears to suggest some parallels between Paul and Jesus, so let’s dig into that, shall we?
Here, guys. Have some Paul stories.