“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.” Acts 24:5-8
When I was in High School, I was the kid who would carry the Bible around. To be honest, I didn’t read it that much. I just had come to the conclusion that being a Christian meant that you carried your Bible around with you at all times. It was certainly a noticeable thing to do in High School. And though for the most part, it drew a neutral response, every once in a while it angered someone.
One day, I brought it to lunch and set in on the table next to me. As I began eating, a classmate came over and grabbed it off the table. “This is filled with lies. You know that, right?” I was shocked. It wasn’t often that I experienced confrontation. It was sort of my specialty to be the most non confrontational person on the planet. Before I could respond. She began to rip the pages one by one out of the Bible.
I let it happen. What was I going to do? But I will never forget the anger on her face. Now, as an adult, I can begin to understand the deep emotional response.
When the story and truth of Jesus come face to face with the world, there will certainly be many responses. And some of them are going to be pure and unadulterated anger. This was what happened with my classmate. And this is what happens in the story of Paul.
There fear of what Paul is saying… the idea that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, terrified them. It messed with their narrative of God. And it certainly would have meant that they had some guilt to work through over killing the Savior of the world. So all of those emotions: confusion, guilt, fear, turn into an anger so strong it almost ripped a man apart.
I think we have a lot to learn from the story of the Sanhedrin. If the Bible is alive and interacting with our world, if the Spirit is alive within us and guiding us through life, if Jesus is alive and continuing to reconcile the broken creation, then we as Christians still have a lot of learning and listening to do. And the working of God is going to challenge all of us in different ways.
We must work against the desire to protect our comfortable understanding of what the Bible SHOULD be for us, and listen carefully to the work that God may be doing in and around us. We must resist the urge to take the easy route of anger and shutting others out. And we must listen.
I fear that if I were alive at the time of Paul’s missionary journey, I, like the Sanhedrin, would have been too busy protecting what I KNOW and would have missed what God was doing in the UNKNOWN.
May God give us all peace and patience as we listen to God together. And may we be open to God doing a new thing in our world and among us!