Have you ever had someone haul off and slap you on the mouth? If there’s anything that gets the blood boiling and the fists clinched, this is the moment. The hearing before the Sanhedrin was supposed to be a fact-finding session, like our grand jury, but instead, as soon as Paul mentioned that his conscience was clear, he got slapped hard. The thing that encourages me is that Paul’s initial reaction is just like mine. He retaliated, but then the story takes a strange twist.
“The next day the tribune wanted to get at the truth of why the Jews were accusing Paul. So he loosened his custody and ordered the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul in and stood him before them.
Paul fixed his eyes on the Sanhedrin and said, ‘Men, brothers, until this very day I’ve lived my life in every way with a good conscience.’ Ananias, the High Priest, commanded those standing by him to strike him in the mouth. Then Paul said to him, ‘God is about to strike you, whitewashed wall! You sit judging me according to the law, yet you act contrary to the law by commanding me to be struck. Those present responded, ‘You dare to insult the High Priest of God?’ ‘I didn’t know, brothers, that he is the High Priest.’ For it stands written that the ruler of your people you should not speak evil against.” Acts 33:30-23:5
If ever there was a high priest in Jerusalem who deserved to be called a hypocritical, unjust tyrant, Ananias was the man. He ruled over Jerusalem’s religious affairs from AD 47 to AD 58 or 59. He had a reputation for being rude, insolent, and quick tempered and this incident proves the charges. But the twist comes when Paul finds out that he has just cursed the present high priest. Instead of doubling down on the justice of his accusations, he admits that he had unwittingly disobeyed God’s command in Exodus 22:28.
The fact that Ananias himself had broken the Law in not judging him fairly (Lev. 19:15) did not allow Paul to counter by disrespecting the position of the high priest. It’s clear that Paul took the biblical commands to show respect for those in authority a lot more seriously than many do today. I have to decide in my daily life if I will follow Paul's example and the example of Jesus when abused in their trials or whether I will join the throng who believe that cursing equals power.
Ananias was assassinated by the zealot leader, Menahem, in AD 66 as the revolt against Rome began to flame. When I’m tempted to use the power tools of cursing and attack, I need to remember that it is Paul who is honored in the end, not Ananias.
LORD, it’s going to take a miraculous powerful touch from your Spirit to help me to not meet slaps with cursing and abuse. It doesn’t even take a slap to kick in my anger and a passion to fight for my own justice instead of allowing you to bring about justice in your time and in your way.
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