Acts 23:23-24:9; Judges 20; Psalm 45
Serving on a jury can be quite an interesting experience. You sit and listen to the evidence as the prosecution presents it and you begin to realize how obvious it is that the accused person is guilty. You begin wondering in the back of your mind why they guy didn’t find a way to plead guilty and spare himself the longer penalty a guilty verdict would bring. Then the defense brings their case and you begin to wonder how in the world the prosecutor could have the gall to bring this poor persecuted lamb to court. Then, after all the evidence is presented, the jury gets together and deliberates and, usually, a verdict comes out based on the real truth with all the shades of grey in between.
As the plot to kill Paul became known to the Roman in charge in Jerusalem, he made arrangements to protect his prisoner until he could get a fair trial. He was especially careful to protect this Roman citizen because all the charges against him were nothing more than a religious squabble and nothing deserving of death in Roman law. It was in Caesarea, before Felix, that the trial began. The prosecution opened the case: “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.” You know, if those charges about the riots were true, he ought to incur some kind of punishment. Remember that one of the reasons Pilate ordered the execution of Jesus was to prevent a Jewish riot. Still, if you’ve been following the story, Paul sought to share the message of forgiveness in Christ with the Jews, but when they turned on him, he left. The Jewish leaders decided to attack him again and again leaving him for dead on a couple of occasions. The riots were not orchestrated by Paul, they were formed against him. Were this trial to happen today, I am sure that Felix would have only one word for the accusers: “Seriously?” Yet, he had to maintain his position and listen to the whole story. As we will see, Paul was happy with that because he had a chance to share the story of Jesus again.
Even today we continue this concept of giving everyone a fair trial. It doesn’t always happen, of course, but the idea is that both sides should have an opportunity to present their cases. Sometimes these trials are actual legal proceedings; at other times they are the daily encounters we have with family, friends, acquaintances or even strangers. When it comes to these daily encounters we have the opportunity to show the forgiveness of Jesus to those who might never hear otherwise. We must always be ready to make a defense of the gospel and the best way is to be able to give testimony about the difference Jesus has made in our lives. So, the question is: what difference has Jesus made in your life and can you tell others about it?