Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.)
There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.
The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
Chapter twenty three of Acts is a rather long, drawn out chapter. It begins with Paul being hunted down and attacked unfairly by the Jewish leaders and leads onto him being handed on to the Romans. So it all reads a little bit like the trial of Jesus.
I have two little favourite bits in this chapter. The first one is the mention of Paul’s nephew who hears of a plot to murder Paul and bravely comes to warn him. It’s always nice to hear of people’s families. It sort of makes them a bit more human and normal.
My second favourite bit is the mention of ‘The Lord stood near him all night’. Anxieties, fears, and threats are always worse at night. They somehow become bigger and more worrying when we lie awake at night dwelling on them. In the darkness we often feel isolated and lost in the face of ‘what tomorrow might bring’.
So what a wonderful picture we have here and one to give us all extra courage when we face our dark nights.