May 22, 2023 – Acts 21:17-23:11
We can get our fairytales and our Bible confused sometimes.
In fairytales (at least the Disney versions), there is a problem a hero is trying to solve, some trouble they get into, and then a triumphant return to win. Good wins over evil, the world is changed, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Sometimes the Easter story can feel like a fairytale: Jesus is wrongfully arrested and murdered, only to rise again after defeating sin and death and extending eternal life and grace to us all. And we all lived happily ever after, right?
Even though we all know that we certainly aren’t perfect, you can see as early as Acts that the broken systems that led people to kill Jesus are still at work. Paul encounters the same struggle where people want to hold onto power instead of focusing on the love and acceptance of others. While Paul is definitely not Jesus, it’s notable that despite Jesus rising from the dead, the power structures anchored in exclusivism and exploitation where people used religion to make themselves strong still rule the day.
While Paul is teaching others that Jesus’ death and resurrection mean fulfillment of the old covenant and that this opens up the grace and love of God to Gentile believers as well, this has made Paul a target, and our passage for today does indeed show Paul getting arrested.
When we encounter transformation in our own lives, it’s easy to be discouraged when the world around us seems the same. It even threatens to challenge our own experiences, as we question whether or not we were fooled into thinking we could be changed in the first place.
But take heart: even as Paul faced more challenges while arrested, it’s clear that God was using Paul and his various gifts to talk about the gifts of God’s love to those who might not encounter it otherwise. Paul’s status as a Roman citizen, his language abilities, as well as his knowledge of Jewish law, are all over these passages to do what only he could to bring God’s kingdom to the world.
Questions for reflection:
- Where might God be encouraging you to use your own individual gifts to be God’s hand and feet in a world?
- Do you think of your skills this way?
- What is one way this week you could use what God has given you to bless others?
We might not live in a fairytale, but Jesus has ensured that we indeed get to look forward to a happy ending.