We see that Paul is misunderstood not only by the Jews who seek to do him harm but also the Roman officials who are trying to keep the peace in Jerusalem. The tribune thinks he is an Egyptian who was a false messiah who was seeking revolution in Jerusalem. The historian Josephus tells about him in his fifth point of the thirteenth chapter of his "Of the War - Book II."
He gives Paul permission to speak to the crowd and Paul addresses them in Hebrew. This would begin to soothe their notion that he's a foreigner trying to bring Gentiles into the temple. Paul also makes reference to studying under Gamaliel who was earlier referenced by Luke in chapter 5 when Gamaliel saves Peter and the apostles by saying that if they weren't from God, then they would fail. Gamaliel is known by writings outside of the Bible and was famous at the time.
This gives Paul even more credit among those who are listening. He then tells them about how he did essentially what they were doing except under the authority of the religious elite. So we can imagine Paul's irony in his addressing them. He can't really blame them or feel enmity for them for beating him and wanting him dead. He can't help but see a younger version of himself in them.
Paul can do nothing but relay his experience of the risen Jesus and how he was healed by Ananias. Note that Paul doesn't relay Ananias's vision from Jesus or that he is a Christian (as contained in Acts 9:1-22). Rather, he describes him (truthfully but maybe leaving out some details) as a "devout man according to the law and well spoken of by all the Jews living there." Note that Ananias calls upon Paul to be baptized for a repentance of sin and doesn't mention the Holy Spirit. This would sound similar to the baptism of John which would have still been familiar to those in Jerusalem.
|Sometimes to understand where we are going,|
we have to understand where we've been.
Sometimes when we grow in faith, we deconstruct ideas that we had earlier in life. Some people deepen their understanding to where they see a broader understanding of God in the world. For others, they stay locked into a fairly simple cosmology. Things are more black and white as they were for Paul earlier in his life. The risen Christ has deconstructed his earlier understandings that would make him want to participate in persecutions.
Think about your own journey of faith. Are there things that you believed earlier in your life that you see differently today? Has your interpretation of certain scriptures changed? How did you think of God when you were a child? A teenager? Today?
Prayer for the day:
Let the healing grace of your love, O Lord,
so transform me that I may play my part
in the transfiguration of the world from a place
of suffering, death and corruption to a realm
of infinite light, joy and love.
Make me so obedient to your Spirit that my life
may become a living prayer,
and a witness to your unfailing presence.
Prayer by Martin Israel, Anglican Priest, South Africa, 20th century
Photo by Lawrence OP via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.
All scripture quoted is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.