Paul Is Tried by the Council
30The next day the commander wanted to know the real reason why the Jewish leaders had brought charges against Paul. So he had Paul's chains removed, and he ordered the chief priests and the whole council to meet. Then he had Paul led in and made him stand in front of them.
1Paul looked straight at the council members and said, “My friends, to this day I have served God with a clear conscience!”
2Then Ananias the high priest ordered the men standing beside Paul to hit him on the mouth. 3 Paul turned to the high priest and said, “You whitewashed wall! God will hit you. You sit there to judge me by the Law of Moses. But at the same time you order men to break the Law by hitting me.”
4The men standing beside Paul asked, “Don't you know you are insulting God's high priest?”
5 Paul replied, “Oh! I didn't know he was the high priest. The Scriptures do tell us not to speak evil about a leader of our people.”
6 When Paul saw that some of the council members were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he shouted, “My friends, I am a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. I am on trial simply because I believe that the dead will be raised to life.”
7As soon as Paul said this, the Pharisees and the Sadducees got into a big argument, and the council members started taking sides. 8 The Sadducees do not believe in angels or spirits or that the dead will rise to life. But the Pharisees believe in all of these, 9and so there was a lot of shouting. Some of the teachers of the Law of Moses were Pharisees. Finally, they became angry and said, “We don't find anything wrong with this man. Maybe a spirit or an angel really did speak to him.”
10The argument became fierce, and the commander was afraid that Paul would be pulled apart. So he ordered the soldiers to go in and rescue Paul. Then they took him back into the fortress.
11That night the Lord stood beside Paul and said, “Don't worry! Just as you have told others about me in Jerusalem, you must also tell about me in Rome.”
We now see a Roman commander who takes a much greater interest in the controversy. This man, whose name we learn in 23:26 is Claudius Lysias, would have been the centurion, in charge of a thousand soldiers, stationed in Jerusalem and charged with keeping order. The fact that Paul was a Roman citizen shed an entirely different light on the whole situation.
He now releases Paul to stand before the religious council. Paul has escaped a whipping but not a slap on the mouth from Ananias, the high priest. Paul has a temper and can stand up for himself and yells at the perpetrator that God will get him for that. (He was not the first person to call the Jewish leaders “whitewashed sepulchers.” Our Lord called them that and more. They looked good from the outside but in fact were filthy and corrupt within.) Paul quiets down when he realizes that it was the high priest who ordered the blow.
Paul apologized to Ananias and as he regained his composure focused on the men around him.
He realized there were both Sadducees and Pharisees in the council. The Sadducees had no belief in resurrection or angels. They were pragmatists who doubted the existence of anything they could not see. On the other hand the Pharisees believed in the resurrection.
Paul saw his opportunity to “divide and conquer.” He states that he is a Pharisee as were his ancestors. Forcefully he cries out that he believes in the resurrection of the dead. The fox is now in the hen house and a great uproar ensues. All of a sudden the Pharisees are defending Paul saying perhaps he had an angel visitant. Roman soldiers have to rescue him, fearing for his life. That night Paul receives a word from the Lord. Paul will have the opportunity to be his witness even in Rome, the very centre of the empire.
As I live my life for you Lord, give me wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent. In Jesus’ name, Amen.