Paul gets caught in the thick of things, Jewish rioters against Truth rallying against him, and a hand goes up. “I’m going to tell you a story.” Suddenly, the rioters are all ears as Paul tells the story of how Jesus showed Himself to the persecutor of all persecutors. The crowd is enraptured. Paul goes on to explain the vision in which God commanded him to preach to the Gentiles. Then the rioters become enraged. “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!” They bind him and send him to the tribunal.
Paul stands before his persecutors, and then the amazing thing happens. The tribunal asks him why he has been such a troublemaker…and he reminds them of his identity – that he is a Jew but also a Roman citizen, and they have no legal right to have him bound. This frightens the tribunal, and they convene in a special session to decide what to do with this sharer of visions and bold lover of the Gentiles. They call him in, and this man “on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead” sees their deceptions and divisions and calls them out. Needless to say, they become furious with him. They send him away.
Through transfer after transfer, tribunal after tribunal, God gives Paul opportunities to unabashedly proclaim the Gospel to leaders of both the Jewish people and the Roman empire. And I’m not just talking mayors here – I mean the big wigs.
What if Paul had never unveiled the subversive Gospel of hope to the Gentiles? What if Paul hadn’t asserted his identity as a Roman citizen? Who might not have had the chance to hear about the death and resurrection of Christ and the salvation offered therein? Despite chains, despite constant instability, despite standing before rulers with demands on his life, Paul spoke. Paul obeyed. And now, 2,000 years later, we get to hear about that same hope because, at least in part, one man knew to whom he was called, who he was, and Whose he was and wasn’t ashamed to tell about it.
(You can read the whole story in the book of Acts, starting with chapter 22.)