“Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death.19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” 21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.” Acts 28.17-22
Consider these words, “for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.” The spread of Christianity in only thirty short years since the death of Christ and was spreading like a wild fire. From the tiny town of Nazareth in Galilee, throughout all of Judea, Samaria and now to Rome, the ends of the earth. The Gospel has been spread! It’s moved all through the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, and even down into Africa, Ethiopia and Egypt. Because of the location of Israel, and the trade roads developed and built by the Romans and others, God had a super highway to take the Gospel to every conceivable nation.
Paul finds himself near the end of his ministry in Rome and he is speaking to a gathering of Jews about the “hope of Israel.” The hope of a nation, of a people put in captivity and now ruled by other people groups. Because of their disobedience, God has scattered them all across the known world. And here, in Rome, as Paul speaks to the local Jewish leaders, he does so with truth, conviction and love, telling them about Jesus and the good news of the Gospel.
God wants to use us to do the same. He may not take us to the palace of Caesar, but he will take us across the street to our neighbor. He will take us to children’s camp or to seminaries or to local schools and business where people need to know his name. Billy Graham said he preached essentially the same sermon his whole life — that “Jesus Christ came to die for sinners of whom I am the worst.” Over and over again, he told the same old story — an old story that still brings hope to the world.
A few nights at Revive Children’s Camp (revivetexas.org), we had a wonderful time of prayer and response. Leaders all over the room were praying with children about accepting Jesus, saying yes to ministry, and receiving prayer for healing and wholeness. I prayed with two girls who repeated the words of the sinners prayer to receive Jesus into their lives. They had never prayed this prayer, but last night, they met Jesus anew. The same old story that Paul proclaimed in the Jewish courts in Rome was retold at Camp Glen Lake and fell upon receptive ears.
This old story is not only the nation of Israel but points to the person who is the hope of Israel – Jesus the Christ. It is in him that we live and move and have our being. It is in Jesus in whom we find our hope and our rest.
I invite you to share and receive his message today. The same God who spoke through Paul will speak to you. The same God who loved Paul enough to rescue him from darkness will surely rescue you.
“O Lord God, thank you for loving us. Thank you for the message of the cross. I praise you Lord and lift up your holy name. Thank you for allowing me the grace to walk with you and to seek you all my days. Come now, Holy Father, reveal yourself to me. Empower me with your love and strengthen me by your grace. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen