Summary: How will you respond to the Resurrection? Disbelieve it or deny it as a lie, or believe it as the truth?
Our New Testament lesson for this morning is from Acts 26:1-29. It is found on page 792 of your pew Bible.
As you turn to this text in your Bible, let me share with you something that happened to me this week.
I was in the grocery store the other day, and the cashier was taking so much time, and was moving soooo slowly, that I picked up the latest issue of the Weekly World News.
Seems that Elvis Pressley is STILL alive!
Aliens from other planets are backing Bush in the elections.
They have discovered a snake that actually has a human head – and it has the face of Jay Leno.
Now, we know none of this is true! But you know, people love gossip. We love scandals.
Between truth and a lie, sometimes the lie is more interesting to listen to!
That was certainly the case in the Book of Acts.
We have been studying the Book of Acts for several weeks. As it draws to a close, we see that in the last several chapters, poor Paul is caught in a tug of war between truth and a lie.
Toward the end of the Book of Acts, Paul has a plan. He is going to Jerusalem, then to Rome, and then to Spain.
Paul makes it to Jerusalem and he gets into trouble. There is a big scandal and people started gossiping and telling lies about Paul.
When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, he makes a visit to the Temple. Because Paul was a Jew who became a Christian, a lot of Jews in the city did not welcome Paul. One thing leads to another and a riot breaks out.
Paul is falsely blamed for allowing Gentiles into a part of the Temple reserved only for Jews. Now, he did not actually do that, but the truth doesn’t matter.
After all, people love to gossip.
Between the lie that Paul broke the Temple law and the truth that Paul was faithful – many people decided to believe the lie. After all, the lie was more interesting.
During the riot, people attack Paul and beat him. So when the Roman authorities arrived, they arrested the victim – poor Paul.
He was then passed onto one authority after another.
Time and again in these closing chapters of Acts, Paul gave a defense. Each time, he insisted that he was being persecuted by the Jews because of his belief in the truth of the Resurrection.
Eventually, Paul was sent to Caesarea, so the Governor could deal with Paul.
And once again, Paul offered a defense, and in that defense he again proclaimed belief in the truth of the Resurrection.
Now Governor Felix never made a decision about Paul. He dragged his feet hoping that Paul would offer a bribe, which he never did.
This situation went unresolved for two years!
When the new Governor, Festus, assumed power, he discovers he has inherited this prisoner. He wants to get rid of Paul so he plans to send him back to Jerusalem. Paul knows the Jewish leaders will find out and attack him and kill him before he can get to Jerusalem.
So Paul did the only thing he can do to save his life – he appealed to Caesar.
Before Paul could be sent to Caesar, another politician named Agrippa, pays the new governor a courtesy call.
And that brings us to the New Testament lesson for today.
Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to speak for yourself." So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense:
"King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently."
(Now, Paul tells the King to be patient, because to tell you the truth, Paul has a long speech. He talks about his long history as a Jew, as a Pharisee, and how he persecuted the Christians. Then he describes how he met the risen Christ long after his crucifixion, and it changed Paul’s life.
We pick up with verse 19.)
"So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen--that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles."