Paul preaches to a mob of Jews
“I’m a Jew”1Paul said, “My brothers and my fathers. Please listen to my side of the story.” 2When the crowd heard him talking in Hebrew, they stood all the more silent. 3“I’m a Jewish man. I was born in Tarsus of Cilicia. But Jerusalem’s home to me. It’s here I grew up. Here is where I studied in classes personally taught by Gamaliel. And here is where I learned how to respect the strictest interpretation of our ancient laws. I’ve been a passionate servant of God—as passionate as you’re showing yourself to be today. 4I made life miserable for followers of the Way. In fact, I made life end for some of them. I arrested them, put them in chains, and took them to prison. 5Ask the high priest or any one of our leaders on the council. They can confirm it. They are the ones who wrote the affidavit giving me written permission to go to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, arrest followers of the Way, and bring them back here to Jerusalem to face their punishment.
“I saw the light”6So I headed out to Damascus. But about noon, as I was getting close to the city, a brilliant light flashed in the sky and lit up everything around me. 7I dropped to the ground. Then I heard a voice. It said, ‘Saul. Saul.“Why are you hunting me down and persecuting me?’ 8I said, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said, ‘I’m Jesus of Nazareth, the one you’re persecuting.’ 9The people traveling with me saw the light, but they couldn’t make out what the voice was saying to me. 10I asked, ‘What should I do, sir?’ And the Lord said, ‘I want you to get up out of there. Go into the city. You’ll be told what to do.’ 11But there was a problem. I couldn’t see anything. The light had blinded me. So the people traveling with me had to lead me by the hand to Damascus. 12There was a man in town named Ananias. He was devoted to God. The Jews there spoke highly of him. 13Ananias came to see me. He stood there beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, see again.’ Suddenly, I could see him. 14Then Ananias told me, ‘The God of our ancestors has picked you. It’s you who will learn what he wants done. It’s you who got to hear the voice of the Good One. 15You’re going to be God’s witness. You have to testify, telling everyone the truth about what you saw and heard. 16So what are you doing still sitting there? Get up. Get baptized and wash those sins away. Put your faith in the Lord.’
“I’m a Jew”17When I went back to Jerusalem and was praying in the Temple, I slipped into a trance. 18I saw Jesus. He said, ‘Hurry up! Get out of Jerusalem right now! These people are not going to listen to what you say about me.’ 19I told him, ‘Lord, they know I used to hunt down people who believed in you. They know I made the rounds to the synagogues, arresting those kind of Jews, putting them in prison, and beating them. 20And they know I held the coats of the people who killed Stephen, the man who told people about you. I approved of his execution.’ 21And Jesus said, ‘Go. Get out of here. I’m sending you far away—to people who are not Jews.’" 22That last line was more than the Jewish crowd wanted to hear. They started yelling, “Death! He doesn’t deserve to live!” 23As they yelled, they angrily threw fistfuls of dirt in the air—they even threw their coats.
“I was born a Roman citizen”24The Roman commander ordered his soldiers to take Paul to the barracks. He said, "Let’s interrogate him with the whip. Maybe then we’ll find out the real reason why these people are screaming at him like that." 25They tied Paul up, stretching him out for a beating. Paul asked an officer standing nearby, “Is it legal for you to beat a Roman citizen before he has been tried and found guilty?” 26When the officer heard that, he went directly to the commander and asked, “What are you planning to do here? This man is a Roman.” 27The commander went to Paul and said, “Talk to me. Are you Roman?” “Absolutely,” Paul said. 28The commander said, “I paid a lot of money so I could call myself a citizen.” Paul said, “I was born one.” 29When Paul said that, the people prepping to interrogate him backed away. The commander started to get worried, too. After all, he’s the one who ordered the men to tie up Paul—and to beat the truth out of him. 30Still, the commander wanted to know why the Jews were so upset with Paul. The next day he ordered the high priest to convene the Jewish Council. Then he sent Paul to appear before those Jewish leaders.
Gamaliel was one of the top Jewish scholars of his day. The apostle Paul said he studied under the guidance of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Jewish writings also say Gamaliel was an advocate for non-Jews in need as well as for women’s rights.
Before people starting calling the followers of Jesus “Christians,” (see Acts 11:26), they called them followers of the Way. Some wrote of it as “the way of the Lord.” Didache (Teaching), a Christian manual written in either the first or second century, spoke of “Two Ways.” There was the way that led to life, and the way that led to death. When Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, asked how to get to where Jesus was going, so he could go, too, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 New Living Translation)
Paul was referring to the Sanhedrin council, which functioned a bit like a governing Jewish Congress/Supreme Court or Parliament. See note for Acts 5:21.
Saul is the Hebrew version of the Greek name of Paul.
Paul’s traveling companions either couldn’t hear the voice or didn’t understand what the voice was saying. It’s uncertain which.
The Greek word for “Good” is often translated “Righteous.” It refers to someone who’s God-approved, just, and downright good to the core. Jesus, for example.
“Putting your faith in the Lord” is more literally “calling on his name.” It’s a bit ironic because Ananias told Paul to call on the name of the one who called out Saul’s name.
Throwing dirt and clothes into the air was a way of expressing strong feelings—sometimes of grief, or disgust, or anger.
The officer was a centurion, commander of about 100 soldiers.
What about Paul’s introduction of himself in Acts 22:3 do you think would have interested the crowd most and made them more inclined to let him keep talking?
At what point in Paul’s story would you guess he started to lose the crowd?
Which of these statements of Paul’s do you think would have been hardest for the Jews in the crowd to believe?
- “A brilliant light flashed in the sky and lit up everything around me” (22:6).
- “I heard a voice…he said, ‘I’m Jesus of Nazareth’” (22:8).
- “Ananias came to see me. He stood there beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, see again.’ Suddenly, I could see him” (22:13).
- “Jesus said, ‘Go. Get out of here. I’m sending you far away—to people who are not Jews’” (22:21).
Why do you think the Jews wanted Paul to die, and screamed, “Death! He doesn’t deserve to live!”? Wasn’t that a little extreme—wanting to execute someone over a difference of opinion?
LIFE APPLICATION. Ananias told Paul, “Get up. Get baptized” (22:16). There was a lot of emphasis in the early church on baptism. Do you think we should be putting more emphasis on it today?
LIFE APPLICATION. The Jewish crowd got so upset that “they angrily threw fistfuls of dirt in the air” (22:23)? People can get pretty upset when someone takes a different point of view over a matter of religion. What topics have you seen stir people up to the point that they’d throw dirt if that was still the custom?