“When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. I was at a loss how to investigate such matters …” (verses 18-20)
This chapter is full of diplomatic and royal protocol, pomp and circumstance, official channels of communication and backroom discussions. Roman power is represented by the newly appointed Governor, Porcius Festus, while traditional Jewish royalty is represented by King Agrippa and his sister, Bernice.
At the centre of the chapter, in the midst of high-powered activity, this off-the-record conversation between Festus and Agrippa stands out. In an off-handed comment, these earthly powers speak of the Creator and Sustainer of all universes as “a dead man named Jesus.” It’s a stunning depreciation, filled with irony because they don’t even realize they’re doing it.
By contrast, Paul himself will later give us a clear perspective of this “man named Jesus,” telling us:
“… all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together … he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:16-18).
The contrast in perspective is stark. It persists today. The Festus-Agrippa viewpoint allows Jesus to be honoured as a moral teacher, spiritual leader and symbol of love and peace. Certainly our world gives him that much. Yet a dead man is only called to mind periodically and doesn’t have power to command much more than simply basic respect.
But a living Lord, well that’s a different issue. One whose hand touches everything in existence, holding all things together, is not One who can ultimately be ignored. His position and power and authority mean that his supremacy will indeed be experienced throughout the cosmos. It is inevitable. There is a coming day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Rightly so.
Which perspective do we live by? Not in theory, but in real practical terms. Is Jesus a dead man or the Lord of all? Do we simply draw him to mind, every once in a while, for momentary encouragement and inspiration? Or do we, in fact, allow him to capture our attention – increasingly – moment by moment, day by day? Do we embrace his supremacy? Do we bend the knee? Do we own him as Lord?
Lord Jesus, I honour you as the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Truly you are Lord. It is my desire that you have supremacy in all my thinking, all my interactions, all my life. I confess that I can so easily slip back into the other perspective, forgetting that every moment is yours alone. Forgive me. I choose to submit myself afresh to your Lordship. In my life, Lord, be glorified today.
Reflect: Take this one phrase – “that in everything he might have the supremacy” – and draw it to mind all day. What does it mean practically in this moment? And the next? And the next? Embrace him as Lord.