This blog post is part of my year-long series of posts on the New Testament. My church is on a year-long journey called Project 3:45, where we are reading the New Testament together this year. To join in, click here.
“Today, I am standing on trial because of the hope in the promise God gave our ancestors.”
Here in Acts 25, Paul finds himself on trial (again.) He’s on trial here, and generally making people angry elsewhere because he’s teaching “new” things to people. Well, Paul doesn’t think he’s teaching anything “new,” because he believes everything he’s teaching is rooted in Scripture (which for Paul was most of what we now know as the Old Testament.) Paul believes that Jesus was the fulfillment of the teachings of his ancestors, found in Scripture. He’s got a new twist on an old teaching, and it’s really making people angry.
The question that comes up for me as I read this and as I think about how people respond to new things in general is, “Why are human beings so afraid of new and different?” Why do we spend so much energy and breath arguing about the way things have “always” been? Paul says here in this verse that he’s on trial because of hope. Why are the people in this story opposed to hope? What’s so threatening about hope?
Is it because hope causes us to expand our vision of what’s possible? Is it because hope draws us forward to new things? Is it because hope sometimes asks us to replace the familiar with the unfamiliar? Is it because hope can be uncomfortable? Hope can be, and should be, exciting, life-giving, inspiring, and comforting, but when it leads us to think or act or plan differently or to challenge the status quo, it often causes anxiety, anger, and frustration.
Paul knew well the words of God through Isaiah the prophet when Isaiah wrote,
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18, 19 TNIV)
God is in the business of doing new things. God did a new thing through Jesus, and Paul’s hope in that led him to think and act differently than the religious establishment of his day. The resurrection of Jesus was a new thing, and where would we be without that? On what would we build our faith if it weren’t for the resurrection? Thank God for new things, and thank God for the hope that comes from them!
My question for myself this morning is, “Am I more like Paul, embracing the hope that comes from the new things that God is doing or am I more like the people who’ve brought Paul to trial, rejecting that hope in favor of what’s familiar and comfortable?”
God, may I embrace the hope that comes from you and may I be willing to go where that hope leads me, even if it’s different and new.