Protective Custody in the Middle East
We took a week off for Spring Break here, and our Bible study continues tomorrow with (Roman citizen) Paul held in protective custody by the Roman authorities, as civilian life continues to devolve into chaos and war. Do you ever get the feeling, nothing changes?
(22) Citizen Jailed
Paul is a Roman citizen. He’s effectively being held in protective custody by the Roman authorities, as Jerusalem devolves into violence. The world of that time wasn’t really so different from the world of today.
A Violent Conspiracy
1. Read Acts 23:12-13. Do you suppose the oath-takers thought they were doing God’s will? Do we see people claiming to be following God’s will when they act without God’s guidance today? What do you think they believe?
2. Read Acts 23:14-15. What should have been the chief priest’s and elders’ first response? What should be our first response when we’re asked to do something that maybe doesn’t sound right?
3. Read Acts 23:16-18. How do you imagine the scene? What does this tell you about Paul’s family?
4. Read Acts 23:19-22. Can you imagine scenes like this playing out anywhere in the world today? Why haven’t we changed?
Chain of Command
1. Read Acts 23:23-30. How do you imagine this scene? Is Lysias being a little disingenuous? Does it matter? (Note, as a Roman citizen, Paul really did have a right to protection until he was tried and convicted.)
2. Read Acts 23:31-35. Antipatris was built by Herod on the site of a ruined city, and named for his father. It was about 2 miles from Caesarea, on the Roman road from Jerusalem. How might Paul have felt as his protection was reduced? And when he was sent to “Herod’s palace”? (Herod’s palace had probably been taken over as part of the Roman HQ by this time.) How do we feel when our protection seems smaller?
3. Read Acts 24:1. Why do you think it took the elders five days to get there?
4. Read Acts 24:2-4. Does Tertullus sound like a lawyer? Who is “most noble Felix”? (Antonius Felix was procurator of Judea from around AD52 to around AD58. Josephus says he was followed by Porcius Festus, who died around AD62, 4 years before the Jewish war.)
5. Read Acts 24:5-9. Followers of the Way are already called Christians in Antioch. Why does Tertullus call them Nazarenes? (One suggestion is he can’t say Christian because the root word means anointed one, which would imply Tertullus agrees Jesus was anointed. Who else might you expect to refer to Christians this way?)
6. Are the charges accurate? How does Tertullus try to make Felix feel favorably toward him? Are Christians ever “economical with the truth” in this way.
7. Read Acts 24:10-13. How does Paul try to gain Felix’s favor? Is it important that he doesn’t get emotional?
8. Read Acts 24:14-16. How does he appeal to Felix’s curiosity? Paul is great at arguing his cause. This time he just gives a brief testimony. Do you suppose he might have been tempted to do more?
9. Read Acts 24:17-21. How does he appeal to Felix’s sense of justice? Do you think the fact that emperors are meant to be immortal might influence Felix’s thoughts? What might be an equivalent statement of faith that would pique the interest of modern Americans?
10. Read Acts 24:22-23. Who do you think might have been one of the friends visiting Paul?
1. Read Acts 24:24-25. Why would Paul teach about righteousness, self-control and judgement to a Roman procurator? (Felix is believed to have been an immoral, cruel ruler with a fondness for bribes, which may have contributed to the troubles in Judea under his rule.)
2. Read Acts 24:26-27. Paul’s journey to Rome is taking a long time, but he’s not technically in jail. How do you imagine his daily life at this time? What do you think he was doing? And what might Luke have been doing?
3. Read Philippians 1:12-14. Many commentators think Paul wrote to the Philippians during his imprisonment in Caesarea. Palace guard and Caesar’s household could refer to those acting with the authority of Caesar, and it would make sense that Paul might write to people who’d been concerned about his return to Jerusalem. But why might Paul’s imprisonment encourage people to speak fervently about Jesus?
4. Read Philippians 1:19-26. How would you expect Paul to feel as his imprisonment continues, knowing the Jewish authorities still want him killed? How do we feel when God seems slow to respond to our needs?
5. Read Philippians 2:14-18. Why is it so hard not to complain and argue? When do we find it hardest?
6. Read Philippians 2:19,25, Colossians 1:7. Paul’s sending Timothy and Epaphroditus is one of the reasons commentators think the letter might have been written from Caesarea, since the journey would be fairly easy.
7. Read Philippians 4:10-14, 18-20. The Romans were responsible for keeping Paul safe (and safely hidden away). They weren’t responsible for making his stay comfortable. Can you imagine the scene as Paul opens a care parcel from Philippi?
Appeal to Rome
1. Read Acts 25:1-5. Paul has been in prison for two years. How have the years affected him? And how have they affected his accusers?
2. Read Acts 25:6-8. Why can’t Festus just release him? Are we ever tempted to agree to something just to keep the peace?
3. Read Acts 25:9-12. What is the significance of Paul’s appealing to Caesar? Will he finally live to see Rome? Has God ever asked you to do something that seems humanly foolish?