38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?“ 39 Paul replied, ”I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” 40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:
22:1 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”
2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.
This is a great lesson in thinking before you speak. The poor military police things Paul is Egyptian. The people in the crowd think Paul is some wicked-evil Gentile. Everyone is jumping to conclusions and somebody might just die because of it.
It’s a classic case of thinking you know everything about a situation, making a judgment about the people involved, and then acting without ever getting to the truth of the situation.
We’ve all been there and it does us well to grow out of it.
This is going on during the Feast of Unleavened Bread just after Passover. There are millions more people in Jerusalem than usual for the feast, and national tensions are high. Passover has all of the patriotism of the 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Patriot Day all put together with the tradition of Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas all put together. It’s a big deal!
A historian near this time said that over 250,000 sheep were sacrificed on Passover. That means the population would be 2.5 million people since you had one sheep for every 10 eaters!
There were 1,000 Roman soldiers stationed IN the temple to make their presence known and to keep the peace.
So when an uprising begins, they squash it fast. They don’t want a revolution to start.
(About 30 years later, a revolution would start that would end with the temple being burned to the ground and the stones disassembled to their 2022 state!)
But when Paul gets up to speak to the crowd in Hebrew, a revolution has already begun. He was being accused of being a gentile against the Torah. When he speaks perfect Hebrew to the crowd and cites his credentials, he becomes the authority in the room. Gamaliel was one of the most respected of all rabbis, and he didn’t have many students.
Paul is the only one thinking in this situation, it seems. He declares to the crowd his authority with his speech and his credentials, then he calmly begins one of his most important speeches by identifying and affirming their zeal for God.
We can learn a lot from Paul.
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