Sunday: Acts 22:30
v30: This left the commander in a very difficult position. He still didnt know what Paul had done to cause such a riot, but now that he knew he was a Roman citizen, torture was no longer an option. Roman law forbade him to hold Paul without cause, and the Jewish authorities would be furious if he let him go. So the next day he ordered the Sanhedrin to assemble, and after removing Pauls chains, brought him down to meet with them. Luke doesnt say where the meeting was held, but it could have been either in the council house itself, located west of the temple and connected to it by a bridge, or at the east end of the Portico of Solomon (Royal Stoa) along the south wall of the Court of the Gentiles (Leen and Kathleen Pitmeyer, Secrets of Jerusalem Temple Mount, Biblical Archeological Society, Wash. D.C., 1998, pp.43,44). He left Paul standing in the midst of them and then withdrew to a nearby gallery where he could listen to the charges being made against Paul, and also Pauls defense.
Monday: Acts 23:1-2
v1: Paul spoke first. He stared at the court members seated around him, probably recognizing a number of them, and then began to speak. He said,
Men, brothers, I have been living as a good citizen before God, with a perfectly clear conscious right up to this very day (paraphrase). v2: At that time, the high priest was a man named Ananias (Hananias). A grandson of Herod the Great nominated him to that office, and he served in that role from A.D. 48-59. He was a man with very bad character, who had been so cruel to the Samaritans that he was called to Rome in A.D. 52 to answer charges against him (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Broadman, 1930, Vol. 3, p.398).
Tuesday: Acts 23:2
v2 (continued): The historian Josephus reports that he would send his servants to the threshing floors and violently, if necessary, seize for himself the tithes meant for the common priests. Josephus said some of the older priests actually died of starvation as a result (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.9.2). This encounter with Paul probably took place around A.D. 60, and six years later, when the Jewish revolt against Rome broke out (A.D. 66), Jewish insurgents found him hiding in an aqueduct and put him to death (Josephus, Wars, 2.17.9). Pauls last contact with the Sanhedrin had been nearly 30 years earlier so he would not have recognized Ananias.
Wednesday: Acts 23:2-5
vs2-5: Pauls opening statement infuriated the high priest and he ordered someone standing beside Paul to hit him in the mouth (Jn 18:19-23). Paul responded angrily saying, God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit there to judge me according to the Law and then unlawfully order me to be hit? One of the men standing beside Paul challenged him, saying, Do you (dare to) harshly scold Gods high priest? to which Paul quickly replied, Brothers, I didnt know he was the high priest, and then to show his own submission to the Law of Moses he added,
it is written, You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people (Ex 22:28). Apparently, the high priest was not wearing his formal robes at this meeting, nor was he sitting in his usual place (F.F. Bruce, Acts, Eerdmans, 1974, p.45).
Thursday: Acts 23:6
v6: It was now obvious that there was no hope for receiving a fair trial from this high priest. Any appeal for justice was pointless because Ananias, and the Sadducees who supported him, clearly hated not only Pauls faith in Jesus but everything he believed about God. Yet, among th at gathering of elders there was a minority of Pharisees, and Paul, having been raised a Pharisee (Ac 26:5; Php 3:5), still had much in common with them. In his mind, Phariseeism was an expression of true biblical Judaism. They were the ones who believed the Bible and zealously tried to obey it. Yes, they had failed to recognize the Messiah, and yes, many had made the fatal error of trying to establish their own righteousness rather than receiving Gods righteousness by faith, but Pauls love for them and loyalty to them was still strong (Ro 9:1-5; 10:1-3; 11:1-2, 28-32). Even after all that had taken place over the past years, he still had not given up hope that they would repent and believe. So, in that dark moment, surrounded by enemies, Paul reached out to them for help. Even someone as strong as Paul can grow discouraged. In the past 24 hours he had been savagely beaten by a mob; he barely escaped being scourged by Roman soldiers; he had spent the night in jail; now he had just been hit in the mouth while trying to testify in front of Israels high court, and he finds himself standing in front of a high priest so evil, he was arguably demon possessed. And, in that moment of desperation he pleaded for help from his Bible-believing brothers, saying, Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees, and I am being judged for the hope and resurrection of the dead.
Friday: Acts 23:7-8
vs7-8: When the Pharisees heard these words they responded immediately, and actually, so did the Sadducees. Both groups stood up and moved apart from each other and started yelling. Pauls words had struck a nerve. Beneath the surface of whatever polite behavior was required of them when they sat together in the Sanhedrin, there lay bitter differences of opinion and deep distrust. Luke tells us the Sadducees completely rejected the concept of a physical resurrection of the dead, or the existence of angels or demons, while the Pharisees confessed all those things (Mt 22:23; Mk 12:18; Lk 20:27). Undoubtedly, the Sadducees wanted to avoid debating religion with the Pharisees and were probably shouting something to the effect that Paul wasnt on trial because of those issues, but because he was a troublemaker who had been dividing synagogues everywhere he preached his Christian heresy, and because he had violated temple restrictions (Ac 24:5-6). And, apparently, the Pharisees were now suspicious that the real reason the temple authorities wanted to prosecute Paul so severely was because of his faith. In other words, they suspected Paul would have been treated differently if he had been a Sadducee rather than a Pharisee.
Saturday: Acts 23:9-11
v9: In the midst of this noisy confusion, scribes representing the Pharisees stood up and began to argue fiercely to defend Paul. They declared, We find nothing evil in this man
, and then added this statement,
and if a demon spoke to him or an angel, which probably refers to Pauls account of Jesus speaking to him on the road to Damascus (Ac 22:6-10). If so, it appears they were announcing that they would neither accept nor reject Pauls report. For Paul, this was good news because it meant they were unwilling to pronounce him demonically deceived, and they remained open to the possibility that what happened to him may have been from God. Clearly, they were not going to vote to condemn him. v10: That statement ignited an even greater uprising, with both sides grabbing at Paul. Apparently, the Pharisees were trying to rescue him from the Sadducees, and the Sadducees were trying to prevent him from escaping. The Roman commander, observing all of this from the gallery, grew frightened for Pauls safety. It looked like he was going to be torn apart, so he ordered his soldiers to go down and rescue him and return him to the fort.
v11: That night the Lord Jesus appeared to Paul, standing above him, which probably means Paul was lying down. The Lord began by speaking a word we often hear Him use in the gospels, and is translated as, Be of good cheer or Take courage (Mt 9:2, 22; 14:27; Jn 16:33). Then He said,
for as you have fully witnessed to the things concerning Me in Jerusalem, so it is also necessary for you to witness in Rome. These few words said a lot: Jesus told Paul he did not need to fear; He told him that he had accomplished all that he had been sent to Jerusalem to do; and He told him he wasnt going to die in Jerusalem because God still had work for him to do in Rome. Though none of Pauls physical circumstances changed in that moment, his courage returned, and as we watch him face the coming trials, well see an amazing confidence.