Jesus’ Life: Chapter 23 – Paul’s Journey To Rome And Imprisonment
Once in Rome, Paul was delivered by the Roman Centurion, Julius, to the Captain of the Guard (Praetorian Guard) to whom all prisoners committed for trial before the emperor were taken.
Instead of being placed in a common prison in Rome, as one might have expected, Paul was granted the privilege of “custodia libera.” It was similar to house arrest in that he was allowed to stay in his own home but with grave restrictions. He was chained to a guard who kept constant watch over him and he had to remain in the confinement of his house at all times. It was a special favour, probably granted to him on the request of the centurion, Julius, and influenced by the content of the letter from Festus.
Paul took immediate advantage of his semi-freedom. He quickly rented a home in the city and set to work. On day three, he held a preliminary meeting with local Jewish leaders, clearly wishing to form a respectful and warm relationship in the hope that they would accept Jesus’ call to his Gospel.
Paul welcomed his “Brothers,” the local leaders and, we can easily assume, quickly explained why he was a prisoner chained to a guard! However, his house freedom would not have gone unnoticed by them, it suggested that the Romans did not consider him dangerous!
The Jewish leaders said to Paul, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, nor have any of the brothers come from there and reported or said anything bad about you. But we would like to hear from you what you think, for regarding this sect we know that people everywhere speak against it”. (Acts 28:21-22) In essence, the Jewish leaders were open-minded about Paul and wanted to meet him again but they made it clear that they had heard many negative comments against Christianity!
At their next meeting, they came in “even greater numbers” and stayed from morning until evening listening to him explain, “about the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus from both the law of Moses and the prophets”. (Acts 28:23)
Paul’s testimony generated much discussion among them but they were unable to agree on a common consensus. However, some were convinced and accepted Jesus as the Messiah.
Not to miss an opportunity but perhaps in frustration, Paul concluded his meeting with the Jewish leaders by reminding them of the words of Isaiah:
Go to this people and say:
“You will keep on hearing, but will never understand,
and you will keep on looking, but will never perceive.
For the heart of this people has become dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have closed their eyes,
so that they would not see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them”.
Paul added, “Therefore be advised that this salvation from God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen!” (Acts 28:26-28)
It’s very likely that during the following days and weeks, many of the same leaders quietly returned to Paul to discuss unanswered questions and seek further guidance.
The Holy Spirit continued to work in Paul while the Jewish leaders questioned and pondered! (Acts 28:16-24)
I watched a man faithfully accompany his wife to Church every Sunday for many years. He would accept a blessing from the Priest but never Holy Communion. The reason being, he wasn’t a Catholic. When asked why he hadn’t become a Catholic, he replied, “Noone ever asked me?” Of course, we all left the task of asking him to someone else!
Paul didn’t do that!
Lord Jesus, cast a merciful glance upon those who deny your Gospel teachings and inspire them, with your Holy Spirit, to come to see your loving embrace for all people through your sorrowful passion and resurrection. Amen.
Prayer: Christian Unity (John Henry Newman)
O Lord Jesus Christ,
when you were about to suffer,
you prayed for your disciples that they might all be one,
as you are in the Father,
and the Father in you.
Look down in pity on the many divisions
among those who profess your faith.
Heal the wounds which the pride of man
and the craft of satan have inflicted on your people.
Break down the walls of separation which divide Christians.
Look with compassion on all souls and bring them together
under the Holy Catholic Church.