“Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “listen to me as I offer my defence.” When they heard him speaking in their own language, the silence was even greater.
Acts 22:1-2 NLT
Paul faced intense hostility when he reached Jerusalem. People had heard reports of his ministry amongst the Gentiles, and he was accused of telling people to disobey the Jewish laws. A riot broke out and the crowd cried out for Paul to be killed. The commander of the Roman regiment was informed that the city was in uproar and so he sent his troops to get hold of Paul. The soldiers were clearly unsure what to do with Paul and indeed at first the commander had got him confused with an Egyptian who had led a major rebellion. Paul clarified that he was a Jew from Tarsus and asked for the opportunity to speak to the crowd. Interestingly, the commander agreed.
This was an incredibly sensitive moment. Many in the crowd were going to hate what Paul had to say, and he knew it. He needed to tread with extreme care, and we can learn a lot from the way in which he did it. He began by addressing them as brothers and fathers which was the same way in which Stephen had commenced his final speech. But what really impressed them was that he spoke in Aramaic, their own language. That showed great sensitivity and the crowd gave him their full attention. Paul then launched into his testimony. He made it clear that he was a Jew and that he had been educated in Jerusalem under the hugely respected Rabbi Gamaliel. Indeed, he was so committed to his Jewish faith that he had persecuted the followers of Jesus and was even responsible for the death of some of them. He then went into the details of his conversion on the road to Damascus and his calling to go and share the Good News with the Gentiles. This triggered a huge reaction and the crowd shouted that he wasn’t fit to live.
Paul wouldn’t have been remotely surprised by the crowd’s reaction, but he had achieved what he set out to do. He had shared his testimony of the way in which Jesus had transformed his life, and he would never have had that opportunity if he hadn’t approached his task with care and sensitivity.
How does Paul’s example help you, as you share your faith with others?
Lord, help me to be as courageous as Paul in sharing my testimony with others. Amen
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life:
Grant that we, having this hope,
may purify ourselves even as he is pure;
that when he shall appear in power and great glory,
we may be made like him
in his eternal and glorious kingdom;
where he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.