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Kevin JacksonMay 25, 2023
person praying with folded hands(photo from iStock)

A Reflection for Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter

“Take courage.
For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem,
so you must also bear witness in Rome.” (Acts 23:11)

Today’s reading from Acts of the Apostles finds Paul on trial in Jerusalem. In many ways, the author of Acts intends the scene to resonate as a parallel of Jesus’ own trial and condemnation. Paul is ordered to stand before the council of Jewish leaders and the high priest and, in this moment, give a defense of his teaching that Jesus is raised from the dead.

Given this parallel with the Lord’s own journey, we could be forgiven for thinking that this will be Paul’s last major obstacle in his ministry. If he is able to proclaim his faith boldly and somehow overcome the authorities that wish him harm, he will have finally “won.” The same authorities that sought Jesus’ life will have finally given in.

But God had other plans. In the night, while Paul was being held in custody, the Lord appeared to Paul, saying, “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”

It is clear that Paul’s own journey was one of friendship with the Lord. Let us pray that it might be so with us.

I am struck by this invitation of the Lord to Paul because it speaks to the reality that there is never truly a final hurdle in our journey of faith. Here is Paul—in prison on fraudulent charges, having traveled thousands of miles to spread the Gospel—and still God has another task in mind for him, another use for his preaching and teaching.

There are two reactions within me to this news. One is despair. Why can’t I simply do enough good that at one point God says, “Wow, well done. Take a nice sabbatical from the whole Gospel thing. Live your life!” This reaction creeps into life in small ways, subtly discouraging us from trying to live the Gospel at all. In my moments of clarity, I can see that this is a movement of the evil spirit.

The second reaction is one of faith, or hope, or probably a mixture of both. It means trusting that the Lord is truly a friend to us. When we are able to think of life in this way, we realize that a journey with God gives the joy that only a wonderful friendship can. And who wants to end a wonderful friendship? We accept the next invitation of the Gospel not because we are racking up points on the good deed scoreboard, but because we know and love Jesus.

It is clear that Paul’s own journey was one of friendship with the Lord. Let us pray that it might be so with us.

More: Scripture

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