In Acts 23:12-22, Paul is imprisoned in Jerusalem, when a group of over 40 young men take an oath not to eat until they have killed him. They plan to request him to be taken for an audience at the Sanhedrin, and to ambush it en route. Paul's nephew hears of the plot, tips off the military commander, and Paul is extricated at night to Caesarea to foil their plot.
I have long found David Gooding's book, True to the Faith, a really helpful look at the book of Acts, mapping out how Luke's story unfolds and how it teaches us in the process.
As I look at chapters 19-28, he introduces his section on this with the following really helpful paragraph (page 338 in my 1990 edition; I'm not sure how much material has been added by the currently in-print 2013 edition to move the page numbers on):
Here, once again, is David Gooding, in his book True to the Faith.
Read this slowly, let it sink in, and take time to enjoy the amazing mercy and grace of God shown that first Pentecost:
Why Pentecost? Why did the Spirit come on the church on that day in particular?
It's a good question. Jesus ascended on a Thursday; the Spirit did not come for another 10 days. Why the wait? Jesus only said that they'd have to wait for "a few days", but 10 is longer than it might have been.
Perhaps it was just expedient. There would be multi-national crowds in Jerusalem over the Pentecost festival, making it a perfect time for them to hear the wonders of God in their own tongues.
In Acts chapter 13, Paul meets a magician on Cyprus.
I wonder if, as you read that, you found yourself thinking this was familiar. Ah yes, there was another magician in Acts chapter 8. There, Simon the Magician met with Philip, and then with Peter. Here Bar-Jesus or Elymas met with Paul.
There are differences between them. Most notably, Simon was (superficially, at least) converted; Elymas was not.
Nevertheless, this is one of those passages in Acts that gives the reader a sense of deja-vu.
Acts 5:33-39 33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.
But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while.
Why have I not seen this before? 2 men, in white, asking the disciples why they look for Jesus in the wrong place, but telling him where they will see him.
“While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”“ (Luke 24:4-7)
Last week I was doing a bit of work in the garden, cutting back the ever-encroaching bramble and gorse bushes.
I found myself wondering why there are so many of the things in the garden. It’s a bit of a pain.
Not that it required much thought. Genesis 3:18 solves that one for me – they serve as a reminder of the fact that life in rebellion of God’s law is never a fulfilled / happy / pain-free one. God judges those who rebel against him.