Step #1: Lectio / Read
King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea
on a visit to Festus.
Since they spent several days there,
Festus referred Paul’s case to the king, saying,
“There is a man here left in custody by Felix.
When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews
brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation.
I answered them that it was not Roman practice
to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers
and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge.
So when they came together here, I made no delay;
the next day I took my seat on the tribunal
and ordered the man to be brought in.
His accusers stood around him,
but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected.
Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion
and about a certain Jesus who had died
but who Paul claimed was alive.
Since I was at a loss how to investigate this controversy,
I asked if he were willing to go to Jerusalem
and there stand trial on these charges.
And when Paul appealed that he be held in custody
for the Emperor’s decision,
I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.”
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Jesus told the Apostles in Matthew 10:18: “you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake." In today’s reading we find Paul literally fulfilling those words of Jesus. He is a prisoner of Festus, the Roman governor in Caesarea, and is also subject to Agrippa, the Jewish king of that region. As usual, Paul is being falsely accused by the Jews in power as part of their never-ending plots to rid themselves of him and his teachings.
Jesus followed up his words from Matthew above with the promise that “When they deliver you up, do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for it will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." Again in Paul, these words are fulfilled. Festus does not find any guilt in Paul, but to provide a favor to the Jews, he determines to send him back to Jerusalem for trial there. Paul knew this was a death sentence for him, so he played the last card he had, and appealed his case directly to Caesar, which was his right as a Roman citizen. Through this series of events, with the help of all of these unwitting players, the Holy Spirit sets Paul out on the road that led him to Rome.
When I was a younger man, during my know-it-all, don’t-need-religion college years, there was a pretty mischievous element of my personality that would frequently trigger me to mercilessly press people who had strongly held religious beliefs to defend their convictions. I admit now that I did this partly because I found it amusing to see how “misguided” they were, and partly because I was curious to estimate how much they truly believed what they said, or how much they were just repeating the party line. My immediate suspicions always leaned towards the latter.
I laugh at myself now, when I think how the Holy Spirit was playing that young version of me, just like he played Festus, Agrippa and the chief Jews in Acts. He used my foolish arrogance so that others could fulfill that promise Jesus made to give them the words to speak for His sake. I really love to think of that. I am truly grateful that some of those conversations/debates were among the seeds that led to my own humbling conversion.
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
“It will be given to you in that hour.”
How do I let go, and trust Jesus?
What ways can I let Jesus work through me?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
"Holy Spirit, I trust you to give me the words to deliver your message."
"Let me lead others to Jesus."
"Lord, I am your servant."
For the Rest of Your Day...
Slow down and don’t be anxious today. Whatever you need, Jesus knows it. He will give it you. Be His instrument.
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Today's prayer was prepared by Jim Lundgren.