first to rise
Acts 25:23-26:32 (JDV)
Acts 25:23 So the next day, Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the auditorium with the military commanders and prominent men of the city. When Festus gave the command, Paul was brought in.
Acts 25:24 Then Festus said: “King Agrippa and all men present with us, you observe this man. The whole Jewish community has appealed to me concerning him, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he should not live any longer.
Acts 25:25 I found that he had not done anything deserving of death, but when he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him.
Acts 25:26 I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore, I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after this examination is over, I may have something to write.
Acts 25:27 You see, it seems unreasonable to me to send a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.”
Acts 26:1 Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense:
Acts 26:2 “I consider myself fortunate, that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews,
Acts 26:3 especially since you are very knowledgeable about all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
Acts 26:4 “All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem.
Acts 26:5 They have known me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I lived as a Pharisee.
Acts 26:6 And now I stand on trial because of the hope in what God promised to our ancestors,
Acts 26:7 the promise our twelve tribes hope to reach as they earnestly serve him night and day. King Agrippa, I am being accused by the Jews because of this hope.
Acts 26:8 Why do any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
Acts 26:9 In fact, I myself was convinced that it was necessary to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Acts 26:10 I actually did this in Jerusalem, and I locked up many of the devotees in prison, since I had received jurisdiction for that from the chief priests. When they were taken out, I was in agreement against them.
Acts 26:11 In all the synagogues I often punished them and tried to force them to blaspheme. Since I was terribly enraged at them, I chased them even to foreign cities.
Acts 26:12 “I was traveling to Damascus under these circumstances with authority and a commission from the chief priests.
Acts 26:13 King Agrippa, while on the road at midday, I saw a light from the sky brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me.
Acts 26:14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you chasing me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
Acts 26:15 “I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord? ‘ “And the Lord replied: ‘I am Jesus, the one you are chasing.
Acts 26:16 But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a testifier of what you have seen and will see of me.
Acts 26:17 I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them
Acts 26:18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the jurisdiction of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of failures and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Acts 26:19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the sky vision.
Acts 26:20 Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should seriously change their minds and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance.
Acts 26:21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and were trying to lay violent hands on me.
Acts 26:22 To this very day, I have had help from God, and I stand and testify to both small and great, saying nothing other than what the prophets and Moses said would take place –
Acts 26:23 that the Messiah must suffer, and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles.”
Acts 26:24 As he was saying these things in his defense, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, “You’re delirious, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad.”
Acts 26:25 But Paul replied, “I’m not delirious, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment.
Acts 26:26 For the king knows about these matters, and I can speak openly to him. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, since this was not done in a corner.
Acts 26:27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.”
Acts 26:28 Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?”
Acts 26:29 “I wish before God,” replied Paul, “that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am – except for these chains.”
Acts 26:30 The king, the governor, Bernice, and those sitting with them got up,
Acts 26:31 and when they had left they talked with each other and said, “This man is not doing anything to deserve death or imprisonment.”
Acts 26:32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been let go if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
first to rise
Here is another time in Acts where the explanation of the gospel centers around the promise of a resurrection. Paul repeats his Damascus vision story because in that story Jesus speaks to him and proves that he has been raised from the dead. He alludes to the Prophets and Moses as if all the scriptures obviously proclaimn that blessed promise. If we want to get the gospel right, so that it is light to both the Jews and Gentiles — we cannot afford to soft-pedal the promise of the resurrection.
Lord, thank you for the powerful promise of a coming new life through Christ, the first to rise from the dead.