Paul Before the Sanhedrin
Open Your Bible
Acts 21:37-40, Acts 22:1-11, Acts 23:1-11, Hebrews 10:19-22, 1 Peter 3:21-22
BY Erin Davis
Picture yourself in this courtroom. Arrested for starting a riot with his words, Paul stood before a powerful religious court. Humanly speaking, his fate was fully in their hands. Still, Paul did not flinch. Instead, he looked straight into the eyes of his accusers (Acts 23:1). When the priest ordered him struck, Paul did not cower. Even when the dispute became so violent “the commander feared that Paul might be torn apart” (v.10), Paul’s knees never buckled.
Trade places with Paul in your mind. Could you look powerful accusers in the eye, knowing they could have you executed with a wave of their hand? Could you stand the heat of their accusations without melting? Personal experience has taught me that my insides would more likely turn to jelly. My hands would shake. Words would fail me. On my own, I don’t have what it takes to endure this kind of pressure. Which makes me wonder: What truth kept Paul’s knees from knocking? What was the rod of steel that ran up his back really made from? More than moxie was required in this moment. His was a response to meeting the Messiah. Paul was doing more than making his mark on the pages of history as he stood before the court; he was showcasing the gospel.
Hebrews 10 describes another courtroom. Let’s imagine ourselves there. It’s not Sadducees and Pharisees who sit behind this bench, but God Himself. Humanly speaking, we can expect the gavel to drop because we are guilty. Each of us has violated the holiness of God. We deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the Law. Still, we can enter this courtroom just like Paul entered his, with confidence. Though the high priest in Paul’s case wished him struck, Jesus, our High Priest, took the blows upon Himself.
There are times when I fear that the weight of my own sin might tear me apart, moments when I am suddenly and painfully aware that I don’t deserve to be in the presence of a holy God. You have those moments too: when a sin you thought you were free of suddenly ensnares you again, when you catch the idol factory of your heart churning out something or someone new to worship, when you’ve tried and failed to live like Scripture calls you to live. When those moments come, we share in Paul’s defense. “It is with respect to the hope of the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial” (v.6 ESV). It’s not that the gavel will not fall, but rather it has already fallen on Jesus at Calvary. What the Lord spoke to Paul in his hour of need He speaks to us in ours. “Take courage” (v.11 ESV). Heads high. Palms steady. Pulses slow. Because of our High Priest, Jesus “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22).