Topic:To the Jew First
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.
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.
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?