Summary: The character of Paul is revealed as his stands trial before the high priest who reveals he already has deemed Paul guilty.
If you ever testify in court, you might wish you could have been as sharp as this policeman.
He was being cross-examined by a defense attorney during a felony trial. The lawyer was trying to undermine the policeman’s credibility....
Q: "Officer -- did you see my client fleeing the scene?"
A: "No sir. But I subsequently observed a person matching the description of the offender, running several blocks away."
Q: "Officer -- who provided this description?"
A: "The officer who responded to the scene."
Q: "A fellow officer provided the description of this so-called offender. Do you trust your fellow officers?"
A: "Yes, sir. With my life."
Q: "With your life? Let me ask you this then officer. Do you have a room where you change your clothes in preparation for your daily duties?"
A: "Yes sir, we do!"
Q: "And do you have a locker in the room?"
A: "Yes sir, I do."
Q: "And do you have a lock on your locker?"
A: "Yes sir."
Q: "Now why is it, officer, if you trust your fellow officers with your life, you find it necessary to lock your locker in a room you share with these same officers?"
A: "You see, sir -- we share the building with the court complex, and sometimes lawyers have been known to walk through that room."
The courtroom erupted in laughter, and a prompt recess was called. (from Terry Blankenship on Sermon Central)
Today we are going to be looking at how Paul handled one of the more difficult trials of his life. In this case he was literally on trail. He had been called before the Sanhedrin to give a defense for the riot that happened in Acts 22. But you’ll remember as we looked at that chapter last week that Paul really wasn’t guilty of anything, this entire scenario was based on a series of misjudgments and gossip about Paul. A group of religious leaders had decided who Paul was, and what he would do when he came to Jerusalem despite the fact that they didn’t even know him. So when Paul came to Jerusalem, he made arrangements with the local church to take some men who were completing vows to the temple to fulfill the rites in accordance with temple law. He did this to show that he was respecting the temple and the Jewish beliefs. But it didn’t matter when some of the religious leaders saw him in the temple they assumed that he was doing something wrong and accused him of it. The riot that broke out was so great that the Roman Soldiers had to come in and take Paul out. The next day he appears before the Sanhedrin, which was the ruling Jewish religious council, to present his defense.
That is the scene that we begin with today in Acts 23:1-10, “Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, ‘My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.’ At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!’ Those who were standing near Paul said, ‘You dare to insult God’s high priest?’ Paul replied, ‘Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’” Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.’ When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.) There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. ‘We find nothing wrong with this man,’ they said. ‘What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’ The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.”
As we look at how this scene unfolds we are going to see to well respected religious leaders both commit a wrong, what is interesting is that we see only one of them have the character to admit it and get back on the right path. You’ll notice how Paul enters, he’s had the night to think about this and what it is that he wants to say. So he walks in bold he walks in prepared, Luke describes his defense this way, “Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, ‘My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.’” You understand that Paul begins with a defense that he has used before, the aim is to find common ground. Understand the reasoning here, he is really on trial for a false accusation because some people believe that he doesn’t respect the law, and doesn’t respect their belief in the law. So he begins by addressing them as brothers, after all he was a Pharisee, so when he says, that he has a clear conscience what he is saying is that he has kept the law. He’s trying to find common ground and he is trying to show them who he really is.