To the Jew First
A daily devotion for July 30th
Paul Ashore on Malta
28 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.
7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. 8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.
Paul’s Arrival at Rome
11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.
Paul Preaches at Rome Under Guard
17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”
21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”
23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26 “‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”
Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them,My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.Acts 28:17-20
In his letter to the Romans Paul said,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16). Paul always maintained that it was his responsibility to go to the Jew first and then to the Greek. Here we have the last account in Scripture of that priority. He invited the local Jewish leaders to come and see him. He could not go to them, because he was bound to a Roman guard. It is interesting that they responded. They didn't know him, though perhaps they had heard of him. Still they came together because he had been a member of the Sanhedrin. He simply explained his predicament, pointing out that he was an innocent victim of this strange hostility of the Jews toward him. He had done nothing against his nation. He himself was a Jew who longed to bless his people and help them, but he found them strangely hostile. Even the Romans, when the Jews turned him over to them, wanted to let him go because they could find in him no cause for a death penalty, but the Jews objected. Paul makes clear it was the Jews who were against him, not he against them. He had no charge to bring against his nation.
Isn't that amazing? How gracious is his forgiving spirit! As we read this book we hear how Jewish zealots hounded him and caused trouble for him in every city to which he went. They had aroused the populace against him, had beaten him, and caused him to be scourged and stoned. But he speaks not one word of resentment against these people. He freely absolves them of any charge. Then he points out the real reason why the Jews so consistently opposed him:
It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain. (Acts 28:20) He means, by that phrase, the promised coming of the Messiah. Is it not remarkable that now, almost two thousand years later, this is still the crucial issue in Israel — the promise of the Messiah? This issue has never been settled and never can be settled. It remains a constant thorn in the side of any Jewish community. If you want to cause disturbance and arouse argument, to evoke both resentment and yet curiosity, you merely have to raise the issue of the Messiah and you will find yet today the same kind of reaction that Paul experienced. Jews immediately become deeply concerned and involved. Many, as in Paul's case, are turning to Christ these days, as they reexamine this question. It is still a live issue in our own time.
Thank you, Father, for your heart for all people. I ask that you open the eyes of the Jewish people to the truth that is in Jesus.
Life Application: What is our response to persons who are hostile toward Christ and our personal profession of faith in him? Do we follow our Lord's example, as did the Apostle Paul, forgiving and praying for them?
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