Since he wanted to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jews, the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire council to meet. He brought Paul down and had him stand before them.
When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.)
Then a great clamor arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and contended, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks.
That night the Lord stood near him and said, “Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
The commander of the Roman cohort was at a loss to understand why Paul’s preaching led to a near-riot. Ideas like resurrection and angels were unknown in Roman polytheism, yet here they generated such a violent dispute that he finally decided to take Paul into protective custody. What was wrong with these quarrelsome Jews?
The commander’s puzzlement reminds me of the reaction of a Jewish colleague who, after a trip to Jerusalem, told me how astonished he was at the battles among different Christians for access to the holy places. What is wrong with these quarrelsome Christians?
Christians have stopped killing each other over issues of faith, but we are still a long way from the prayer of Jesus “that . . . all may be one, as you Father are in me and I in you.” (John 17:21). Can we make that prayer our own?
—Barbara Lee is a spiritual director, an Ignatian Volunteer, and the author of God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet: Discovering the Spiritual Graces of Later Life published by Loyola Press
Lord, send your good spirit to guide us. You know how challenging it can be to live a God-centered life in a secular society. Help us to grow in love for our fellow Christians, and seek the unity that only you can give.
Please share the Good Word with your friends!