A Plot To Kill Paul
12-13The next morning more than 40 Jewish men got together and vowed that they would not eat or drink anything until they had killed Paul. 14Then some of them went to the chief priests and the nation's leaders and said, “We have promised God that we would not eat a thing until we have killed Paul. 15You and everyone in the council must go to the commander and pretend that you want to find out more about the charges against Paul. Ask for him to be brought before your court. Meanwhile, we will be waiting to kill him before he gets there.”
16When Paul's nephew heard about the plot, he went to the fortress and told Paul about it. 17So Paul said to one of the army officers, “Take this young man to the commander. He has something to tell him.”
18The officer took him to the commander and said, “The prisoner named Paul asked me to bring this young man to you, because he has something to tell you.”
19The commander took the young man aside and asked him in private, “What do you want to tell me?”
20He answered, “Some men are planning to ask you to bring Paul down to the Jewish council tomorrow. They will claim they want to find out more about him. 21But please don't do what they say. More than 40 men are going to attack Paul. They have made a vow not to eat or drink anything until they have killed him. Even now they are waiting to hear what you decide.”
22The commander sent the young man away after saying to him, “Don't let anyone know you told me this.”
Not surprisingly the opposition to Paul has moved from rage to conspiracy. The conspirators ask that Paul be brought before the Council again for further information when in fact they have vowed not to eat or drink until Paul is dead. A nephew of Paul somehow gets wind of this, and tips him off. Paul informs the Roman authorities of the plot, so they decide to send him away from Jerusalem to Caesarea, the home of the governor, under armed escort. The commander has a veritable army surrounding Paul to ensure the prisoner arrives unharmed to face Felix the Roman governor.
As he leaves Jerusalem under armed escort one can’t help but be impressed by Paul’s ability to confound, divide and conquer the opposition without compromising the gospel. Too often today there is a tendency to try and find common ground with those that oppose the Gospel. One opponent said to me that if I would back down from my belief that Jesus was the divine Son of God he would listen to me. To deny that truth is to deny the gospel.
In Bonhoeffer’s book “The Cost of Discipleship” he stresses that there always will be the temptation to compromise. He says that this leads to flabby Christianity that makes no demands on its adherents other than the duty to attend church once a week to be assured that our sins have been forgiven. He calls this “cheap grace,” which is the bitter enemy of true discipleship. Costly grace is to face those that oppose us without blinking. It is a call to face opposition confidently. Costly grace is the only pure grace which forgives sin and gives freedom to the sinner. Cheap grace is the poison that kills the life of discipleship which was the only kind of life Paul understood. He never takes the easy way out. To use a common expression, he is “all in.”
Forgive us Lord when we play at Christian faith. Help us to understand that our salvation cost you an agonizing death. May we be followers willing to be soldiers of the cross. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.