Links Daily Devotional

Speaking for God

“What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things… I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice.” (Acts 26:25-26, NIV)

No more than a couple of decades before the birth of Christ, Herod the Great constructed the grand coastal city of Caesarea, which was to become a port city of interest for imperial visitors from Rome.

Even today you will see traces of the past: the village, the garrison, the circus. Herod had no reservations about pleasing his Roman allies, and as he did elsewhere, he built lavishly in Caesarea. Partly because of its appealing edifices and entertainment, partly because of its Mediterranean location, Caesarea became the nexus between east and west. Rome came to Caesarea; so did Jerusalem.

The living embodiment of this blend may well have been the apostle Paul. The Roman citizen raised in the northern city of Tarsus had made the pilgrimage of his ancestry and settled in Jerusalem as a confirmed member of the ruling Sanhedrin. And Jerusalem was where Paul had made his home when, out of the proverbial ashes of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, a group called the Way began to preach that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Jewish people.

Paul held fast, “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” But he did not stand, not when he was confronted by Christ himself on the road to Damascus.

God, of course, lifted Paul from that humbling, and turned him into the voice of salvation to the Gentiles from Jerusalem to Rome. There’s a bit of geographical irony here, for it was Peter who first spoke to a Gentile leader about salvation through Jesus and saw the Holy Spirit descend upon this Gentile household. That leader was the centurion, Cornelius, and his household was in Caesarea!

But it was Paul who became the long-term messenger for Christ throughout the region. So disturbing was his voice to the Jewish elite, however, that Paul’s life was threatened and he appealed to Roman protection. Which brings us back to Caesarea, for it was here that Paul was held in a Roman jail for two years. It wasn’t the finest of accommodations, but what was a Roman peacekeeper to do when a man’s mere release would have induced a riot?

Still, Paul never hesitated to speak for Jesus. He didn’t need a crowd or a synagogue. In Caesarea, he trained his missionary sights on the installed leaders: Felix the governor and wife Drusilla, Felix’s successor Festus, King Agrippa and his queen Bernice. These were people of influence, yet it was Paul who took to influencing, presenting his own testimony and emphasizing the connection between the Old Testament prophets and their fulfillment in Christ.

Agrippa, for one, was unmoved, asking Paul if he thought he could be so quickly convinced.

Paul’s reply was simple and yet reflected the very heart we all should have for those at our crossroads with whom we share: “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am.”

Jeff Hopper
December 2, 2014
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