I felt fortunate to finally hear this man speak. So many talked about Paul and his devotion to a dead man named Jesus. I stood with the others in the auditorium as Paul was brought in. He looked nothing like the radical I envisioned. The room fell silent as Festus explained to King Agrippa that he did not know what charges to bring against Paul. How strange that the Jews wanted Paul executed, but Festus felt Paul had done nothing worthy of death.
I listened intently as Paul raised his hand and began to speak with Agrippa’s permission. He told how he was raised in the Jewish religion and strictly followed the faith as a Pharisee. As he continued to speak, I wondered why the Jews were so upset with him. Then I was astounded when he told how he persecuted followers of Jesus. I thought he said he was a follower of Jesus?
Paul went on to tell of some dramatic event on his way to Damascus where a bright light knocked him down and Jesus spoke to him. The words “kicking against the goads” resonated with me. It described how I felt. Something deep inside kept prodding me to question my life and the things I did. Then Paul told how he heard Jesus say that he was sending him to the Gentiles — to a man like me — “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins.”
My heart seemed to skip a beat. It described what I yearned for in my life. But as a prominent man in the city I had a reputation to maintain. I couldn’t just start following some strange new sect. Yet his words stirred me. How could I turn from the darkness in my life? How could it be possible to find forgiveness from the guilt I felt for so many years. How could I stop doing things that were legal, but felt wrong? “Repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance,” I heard Paul say. Then I heard Festus say, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.” Paul countered with, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth.”
“Sober truth.” Indeed, his words were sobering. They awakened me from the drunken stupor I was living all these years searching for truth. And here I found truth in the most unlikely place. Then King Agrippa spoke the words that were on my mind, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” I looked at Paul. There stood a man who left his prominent life as a Pharisee to follow Jesus.
#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a prominent man of the city who was in the auditorium with King Agrippa when Paul spoke, based on Acts 25:6-26:32 (NASB).
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