“I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could explain to you that I am bound with this chain because I believe that the hope of Israel—the Messiah—has already come.”
They replied, “We have had no letters from Judea or reports against you from anyone who has come here. But we want to hear what you believe, for the only thing we know about this movement is that it is denounced everywhere.”
So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul’s lodging. He explained and testified about the Kingdom of God and tried to persuade them about Jesus from the Scriptures. Using the law of Moses and the books of the prophets, he spoke to them from morning until evening. Some were persuaded by the things he said, but others did not believe. And after they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul: “The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet, ‘Go and say to this people: When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’ So I want you to know that this salvation from God has also been offered to the Gentiles, and they will accept it.”Acts 28:20-28
What is fascinating about this section is the balance of what Luke wrote to close the book. We only have sixteen verses which cover the last two years of Paul’s time in Rome. Yet nine of them, the ones before us today, are focused on Paul meeting one last time with the Jewish leaders in Rome. Your collection of readers’ questions pretty much sum it up.
- Why is Paul meeting with the Jews again after having so much trouble with them?
- He is an apostle to the Gentiles, why doesn’t he go to the Gentiles?
- Why do these Jews have exactly the same reaction as all the other Jews? It is like it is a national trait.
- Were the words Luke finished with quoted as Paul said to the Jews in Rome or were they a general summary of all the Jewish responses?
My thoughts exactly: why does Luke spend so much time on this meeting with the Jewish leaders in Rome when this is only one day in the life of Paul in Rome over two years? It seems disproportionate if we consider what else Luke could have been telling us. Some think it is because Luke has left Paul at this stage and therefore did not have any more input to give after this meeting. The meeting with the Jewish leaders described here took place over two days. One day to meet the first time and get acquainted as Paul suggested to them on meeting at first. Then there was a second day set during which Paul explained, testified and persuaded them about Jesus from the Scriptures, from morning until evening.
Oh how I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting. There are two other meetings I would have loved to have been present at. One when Jesus explained to Cleopas and his mate on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27). The second is when Jesus himself met with the disciples after Cleopas and his mate had told the disciples what Jesus had said to them, and opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45). Surely to have been privileged to have been at all three of those meetings would have been the ultimate in-house course. Talk about the connections of Deeper Bible. The combination of those three meetings, Paul with the Jewish leaders in Rome and Jesus with Cleopas and the disciples would have enhanced and highlighted all the connections of the Bible. To be so blessed.
- Why does Luke present this meeting with the Jewish leaders in Rome to the exclusion of all else?
Some commentators think it is because Luke is giving us an apologetic, exonerating Paul from any blame for the Jewish rejection. Paul clearly has done all that he could have done. He has gone to Jew first and then to the Greek (Gentiles) over and over. The principle or priority stated in Romans 1:16 has been Paul’s approach all through the Book of Acts. Even to the point when after Paul has been told that he is the Apostle to the Gentiles, he continues to appeal to the Jews despite their rejection. It is not like Paul has rejected the Gentiles for the sake of the Jews. Rather he has fulfilled his God-given-obligation to the Gentiles as well as making room for the Jews over and over. It is like this approach of Paul embodies the principle of being witnesses to Jerusalem AND Judea AND Samaria AND the outer most parts of the earth. We have a tendency to compartmentalize and put people and our practice into boxes separate from one another. But I have become convinced that God wants us to embrace the whole – to be all things to all men when God gives us the opportunities.
What is fascinating about this encounter Luke described with the Jewish leaders is that it was not a serendipitous meeting with the Jewish leaders. Rather Paul targeted these Jewish leaders and called them to a specific meeting. Luke’s description of their reaction is similar to all other times. “Some were persuaded by the things he said, but others did not believe.” Verse 24. From this second meeting which lasted all day, there were some of the Jewish leaders who were convinced and followed Christ. There were others who did not believe and left unconvinced. The two words involved here are contrastive. It is not like if John were writing this account and telling us that some believed (pisteuō) and some were unbelieving (apisteuō). The first verb in this case is peithō – to be persuaded, convinced to the point of following or obeying. The second verb highlights the fact that despite spending the whole day with them and persuading them of the facts of Jesus, they remained unbelieving.
Turn the picture around a moment. This was indeed a significant moment, when some of the Jewish leaders or synagogues in Rome were persuaded to follow Jesus as their Messiah. This is like Luke’s summaries at other times through the Book of Acts when Paul and whoever was with him preached the gospel in an area and there were those who embraced the message and followed Jesus and there were those who were not convinced. Just pause for a moment and consider what Luke is telling us here. This was not a small incident. This was a significant moment in the spread of the Gospel through His witnesses. Consider carefully what has happened. Ponder on this until the next Gems where I will unpack it some more. This too is the moment where Luke builds his account to the moment of . . . anti-climax as one of you put it in the question asked.
- Why does the story just stop where it does? It seems like it doesn’t have an end. Like it is an anti-climax. What is going on Ian?
- Ponder on this some more. Does Luke bring the Book of Acts to the end with a whimper?
- Does Luke’s ending just fizzle out? Think about it. Much has been said about the ending of the Book of Acts.
Never judge a book by its movie. Especially the Bible.Ian Vail
Christians should be among the most creative of all people; we have the most creative Father of all, and we should follow in Daddy’s footsteps.Ian Vail
I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.Woodrow Wilson
Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself for he shall never cease to be entertained.Anon