The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
The Romans had a slightly complicated relationship with their subject people. Agrippa was recognized as a king of the Jewish people. There was some idea that there was a sovereign state. However, in reality, Agrippa was subject to Roman authority. He could rule, but only insofar as he was permitted to do so by the Romans. Likewise, the Roman governors, in order to keep peace with subject people, had agreements with Caesar that they would not provoke the subject people excessively.
Festus was in a difficult position in Acts 25. He had a prisoner who was accused, not of some sort of sedition or other crime recognized easily in a civil court, but of religious crimes. Therefore, when Agrippa and his wife arrived in Caesarea on a state visit, he consulted with the Jewish king. The dispute at hand was beyond all of Festus’ experience.
Festus’ summary to Agrippa is telling. He summarized the case in verse 19 as pertaining to Jesus. Jesus was dead and Paul said he was alive. Under normal circumstances, this is not an issue of any concern to a court, unless, of course, it is trying to determine a matter of inheritance or guardianship.
Agrippa asks to hear the case. We don’t have much reliable information about his reasoning. We don’t know what Agrippa already knew or what his opinion might have been. Yet it is certainly an interesting case.
The Christian faith stands or falls based on the resurrection. This is affirmed by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead the Christian faith is invalid. The Jewish leaders apparently recognized how important Jesus’ resurrection was.
Many discussions of Christianity seem to depend on moral claims or spiritual testimonies about the way a life has been changed by God’s grace. These are very subjective arguments. we would do well to step back to the apostolic period and build again on the importance of the resurrection. Here we find the beginning of a general resurrection of the dead. Here we find that God has killed death and is showing that all things have become new. This is a powerful discussion indeed. It’s the idea which the Jewish leaders all recognzied as critical to the life or death of the Christian faith. It’s the idea we need to recapture.
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