Claims of life

Today’s readings are from Isaiah 37:21-38 and Acts 25:1-22

Every now and then we hear claims of life on other planets. Not only do they come with all sorts of conspiracy theories, but with all sorts of emotion about what the discovery of life on other planets would mean for life as we know it. For some, there’s great excitement and intrigue surrounding such discoveries. For others, there’s fear that such discoveries would destroy long held ideologies or perhaps even change life for humanity (image the invasion of a super power from another planet).

Claims of life had been circling for a few years in Paul’s time, and as he approaches the end of his life the reason some are gunning for his death is due to these claims of life he is sprouting.

Having put his case before Felix, Paul now finds himself 2 years down the track defending himself before Governor Festus. Festus has been trying to solve this problem left for him by Felix, and discusses it when he entertains King Agrippa. Festus recounts (Acts 25:18-19) the situation when he heard from the Jews the charges laid out against Paul:

 

 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.

It’s quite a bizarre statement. Festus had no doubt expected breaches of Jewish or Roman law. He discovers just some points dispute about a dead man. Some points? I’m thinking the Jews were saying he was dead and Paul he was alive! Not just “some point”. Not just a dispute… Though, from the governors perspective it was hardly a crime to claim someone had risen from the dead and left him with no clear way forward.

These claims of life brought fear for some. If the claim was true their entire ideology was being transformed in an instant, and they had no idea of how it would change life for them or broader humanity. For Paul though, the excitement and intrigue that had come from his discovery (as a Jew) that Jesus actually was alive (see Acts 9) has totally changed his life.

Paul knew he was doing no wrong in proclaiming Jesus was alive. He also knew this was no small dispute, and so was prepared to die rather than put his claim aside. The claim of resurrection is a claim that people will want to silence. Ironically, the claim of life can bring fear.

Our challenge may be to not allow our fears of peoples response to the claim of resurrection to soften our willingness to proclaim its reality.

What opportunities might God put before us today to proclaim in thought, word, attitude and action the incredible reality “about a dead man named Jesus that Paul claimed was alive”?

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