Paul Is Sent to Felix
23The commander called in two of his officers and told them, “By nine o'clock tonight have 200 soldiers ready to go to Caesarea. Take along 70 men on horseback and 200 foot soldiers with spears. 24Get a horse ready for Paul and make sure he gets safely through to Felix the governor.”
25The commander wrote a letter that said:
26Greetings from Claudius Lysias to the Honorable Governor Felix:
27Some Jews grabbed this man and were about to kill him. But when I found out that he was a Roman citizen, I took some soldiers and rescued him.
28I wanted to find out what they had against him. So I brought him before their council 29and learned that the charges concern only their religious laws. This man isn't guilty of anything for which he should die or even be put in jail.
30As soon as I learned that there was a plot against him, I sent him to you and told their leaders to bring charges against him in your court.
31The soldiers obeyed the commander's orders, and that same night they took Paul to the city of Antipatris. 32The next day the foot soldiers returned to the fortress and let the soldiers on horseback take him the rest of the way. 33When they came to Caesarea, they gave the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him.
34The governor read the letter. Then he asked Paul and found out that he was from Cilicia. 35The governor said, “I will listen to your case as soon as the people come to bring their charges against you.” After saying this, he gave orders for Paul to be kept as a prisoner in Herod's palace.
It must have been difficult for a Roman governor to understand all the complexities of a foreign people, and in particular their religious beliefs. His main task was to keep order among the populace. To be a model citizen you were expected to pay your taxes, follow the rules and stay out of trouble. Even today in our society many people wink at injustice. “Keep the Christian message inside the church where it can’t do any harm.” “Whatever you do don’t be a troublemaker challenging injustice and hypocrisy.” “Don’t be a rabble rouser.”
In recent years there has been a movement particularly in the Arab world challenging the status quo. This has brought about the downfall of dictators such as Gaddafi in Libya but it has not brought democracy to the region. The results have often caused worse problems. The so called “Arab Spring” that brought a flickering flame of freedom was soon snuffed out.
The Jewish leaders see Paul as someone who is challenging the status quo. This is never good for those in power and they try to stop it by any means possible. Their desire is for business as usual. Claudius Lysias, however, writes to Felix that the charges against Paul relate to religion rather than a crime against Rome. He reiterates that Paul is a Roman citizen and has done nothing to warrant imprisonment or death.
I know what this kind of conflict is like. As a young student pastor in the northern bush of Ontario I once attended a council meeting where a proposal was made that I felt could enhance the lives of people in need. I was not a tax payer in the district and therefore had no right to speak. When I asked the chairperson for permission to say something as a pastor, my neighbour pulled me down to my seat and whispered that I mustn’t cause trouble.
Lord, help us as Christians to stand for what is right even when to do so may cause us to be misunderstood and become the object of criticism. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.