Summary: Everytime God’s Word is shared, there is a verdict in people’s hearts. What’s the verdict in your heart?
Acts 17:1-12: SO WHAT’S THE VERDICT?
Recently in the news, there’s the story of the actor, Robert Blake. Maybe you’ve heard about this one – a famous actor living in California – married to the wrong person. His wife is shot and killed, and now, the police say that the evidence is pointing toward the husband as the killer. It’s “déjà vu all over again,” just like OJ – a famous person on trial for murdering his wife. I wonder what the jury will think about this one? America loves courtroom drama – there’s all kinds of trial and lawyer shows on TV that are very popular right now. And when a celebrity gets put on trial, that gets even more attention. What’s the verdict going to be?
Did you know that Jesus is on trial every day? What do I mean by that? What I mean is this - the message of Jesus Christ – the fact that he lived and died and rose from the dead to take your sins away – that message is on trial every day. Every day people hear that message. But do they believe it? What’s the verdict?
Today in Acts chapter 17, we see the message of Jesus Christ on trial. We see how people react to the Gospel in different ways – there are different verdicts. There’s the verdict of unbelief, and there’s the verdict of faith. And as we look at these different verdicts, we will see ourselves, our weaknesses and shortcomings, but also how our God overcomes our weaknesses and blesses us with a strong and amazing faith.
We meet the Apostle Paul in Acts 17. He and his traveling partner, Silas, were traveling through present-day Greece. They were on a mission to share God’s Word with the people. They came to the city of Thessalonica, a big, important city in Greece. Paul went to the synagogue, where the Jews would meet to talk about the Old Testament. Back then, their Bible was our Old Testament. They welcomed Paul, and allowed him to speak for three Saturdays in a row about the Bible. But what Paul shared with them was a message they had not heard before – verses 2 and 3 tell us: “He reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,’ he said.”
This is a message that they had not heard before. The people knew that a Messiah was coming. But they had always pictured him differently – not someone who would suffer and die, but someone who would live and be successful. He was supposed to get rid of the Romans, and reestablish the Jewish nation, make everyone happy. But to hear that the Messiah was supposed to suffer and die, and then rise from the dead? That idea was very different, very new. Paul spent three Saturdays in a row showing them from Scripture all the prophecies about the Messiah, and how he really was supposed to suffer and die and rise. Then he told them about Jesus Christ, and how Jesus had fulfilled all those prophecies.
So what was the verdict? Did the people believe or not? Verse 4 tells us that some of the Jews there believed, along with a large number of Greek men and women who had also been listening. For some, the verdict was “I believe!”
But that’s not how it was for everybody. Some of them didn’t believe. We’re told that some of the Jews became jealous. They didn’t like it that people were becoming Christians. They didn’t like being told that Jesus was the Messiah. For them, the verdict was, “I don’t believe.” And then they caused trouble – they went to the marketplace and found some thugs, who stirred up the people and caused a riot. They went to the house of a man named Jason, who had been hosting Paul and Silas. They couldn’t find the Apostles, so they grabbed Jason and took him to the leaders of the city. They made all kinds of accusations about treason. The leaders made Jason post bond and then let him go. That night, Paul and Silas snuck out of the city.
These people didn’t believe the message that Paul was sharing with them. Why? Because it was countercultural – the same reason people reject the message of the Gospel today.
What is the verdict, when people hear the message of Jesus Christ? Some do believe, like those people in Thessalonica. But many don’t. Many strongly disagree with the message of the Gospel. I used to know a guy who felt that way – he knew exactly what the Bible said, how Jesus had taken our sins away by his sacrifice, how he had risen, and that because of him, God offers eternal life to all. “But I don’t believe that,” he said. “I don’t like the idea that Jesus is the only way to heaven. I don’t like being told that I’m sinful, that I need God’s help. I don’t like being told that there are such places as heaven and hell. I want to believe the way I want to believe – that if you’re a good person, you do the best you can, then everything will be alright, and in the end, everyone will go to heaven. That’s what I want to believe.”