By Tyson Thorne

April 16, 2019

SpecialProsecutor Large

Pop quiz gentle readers, who said the following: "Of course I myself was convinced that it was necessary to do many hostile things against my enemies, and that is exactly what I did. I locked them up in prison by the authority I received from politicians, and I cast my vote against them in the courts. I even tried to get them to commit crimes because I was so furiously enraged at them." Who do you think spoke those words? No, it may sound like Robert Mueller but it's not him. Do you give up? The answer is Saint Paul.

The statements above are part of Paul's defense before the court of Agrippa in Acts 26. Not for the first time I was struck with just how similar the ancient world is to our own. When one examines the person Saul and the instructions he was given by the religious leaders (who were also political leaders in Israel too though they were not called that due to the nation being a vassal of Rome) one has to conclude that Paul was a special prosecutor. He was given broad powers to question, arrest, prosecute, and even execute anyone associated with Jesus. It compares so well to Robert Mueller, who also was given broad powers (though not the right of execution) to try and trap anyone associated with Donald Trump. But none of this is what I'm writing about today, just a fun observation.

What I really wanted to examine with you is Paul's testimony and how it all relates to Easter Sunday. Take some time to read the chapter; it's a short read. Paul begins by flattering king Agrippa, but then turns to presenting his before-Jesus life. He characterizes himself as a strict conservative with a burning hatred for Jesus and the Jesus followers. Then he met Jesus, and it was easily the most significant event in his life. Keep in mind, this is after Jesus' death. For Paul to claim to have seen Jesus — in glory no less — is to claim that Jesus did resurrect, that Jesus was the Messiah and that Jesus is God. How did the king react? He asked if Paul was attempting an insanity defense.

Paul's reaction is what is important here. After affirming that he has not lost his mind, Paul says that he fully expects Agrippa to already know the truth about Jesus' death and resurrection. "I cannot believe," Paul stated, "that these things have escaped your notice." He was being facetious. Paul knew Agrippa had all the facts concerning Jesus. The news had spread far and wide since Jesus' execution was so public. As Paul stated next, "It's not like these things were done in a corner." Since Agrippa knew about Judaism and the writings of the prophets Paul called on him to believe. Let me restate that a little differently so you can see what Paul did. He, Paul, who was in a court appearing before king Agrippa to defend his actions now has the king defending himself.

"In such a short time" Agrippa deflected, "are you persuading me to become a Christian?" I imagine the words "Why not" crossed Paul's mind. And honestly, Agrippa was in a position to make that choice. He did know all about Judaism, the prophecies about the Messiah, the person and life of Jesus and, most importantly, the fact of the resurrection. Why shouldn't Agrippa join the Jesus-followers? After all, the verdict the king and his court come to is that Paul had done nothing wrong. He was exonerated. Much like someone else we wll know...

As we approach Resurrection Sunday I thought it was interesting to note that Paul makes a very compelling case not for himself, but for the resurrection of Jesus. No one in the court, not even the king, denied anything that Paul had said. Paul laid out the facts, and the court agreed with them even if they did not follow the direct conclusion that they lead to. This Holy Week, I hope you will take the time to find your own defense of the resurrection of Jesus.

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