Acts, Chapter 23 reflection by Dorsey Smith. ~~Paul’s missionary journey, after his conversion experience, continues and chapter 23 details the resistance he encountered, especially from Jewish authorities, notably the Sadducees. As is often the case, those whose power is threatened or who fear the destabilization of their community will typically try to discredit or eliminate whomever they see as the source of that threat.
There was one faction of the council judging Paul who were of similar background and mind as Paul. Paul identified himself as a Pharisee and specifically as a believer in the hope and the resurrection of the dead, a belief that he stated was the reason for his being judged. This appeal to this faction and to this belief caused a division amongst the council with the Pharisees supporting him and the Sadducees in opposition. Civilian authority did not seem to have quarrel with him and since Paul was a Roman citizen it was felt that he must be provided with a level of protection. So Paul was to be protected until his accusers could present their arguments about him but Paul was only to be protected, not released. There was need to respect the concerns of the various factions of the Jewish religious community but also the need to respect the rights of a Roman citizen as well as maintaining civil control.
Paul is driven to continue his mission, resulting from his conversion experience as well as the direction he has received directly from the Lord who tells him “you must bear witness also at Rome”. I suppose one emphasis here is the expectation of bearing witness in the face of certain adversity because of the strength of faith as well as the felt presence of our Lord. Certainly it is not typical for us to face religious persecution for our beliefs but I expect we frequently encounter situations where we do not speak out to injustices we perceive so, in a way, we struggle to meet the calling to bear witness.
I know that I have not had a dramatic conversion experience as did Paul. I am not driven with great zeal to bear witness but I do know that I sense the presence of God’s love and I do believe, as did Paul and the Pharisees, in the promise of resurrection. I hope, as I suspect you do as well, that I/we will be provided the strength as needed to bear witness when it matters most, even if the circumstances are potentially uncomfortable.