When we get to this point of Acts, Paul has been beat up by an angry crowd and rescued by Roman soldiers who were prepared to flog a confession out of him, that is, until Paul identified himself as a Roman citizen. Now he’s sitting in front of the Sanhedrin claiming he has a clear conscience before God and the High Priest tries to bully and intimidate him by telling those around him to punch him in the mouth. At the end of this story Paul is laying in a jail cell, discouraged and afraid, probably wondering where it all went wrong, and in that very moment, Jesus shows up to encourage him. In our English translations, Jesus says something like ‘take courage’ which makes it seem like courage is something we can grasp and possess. But in the Greek the notion of ‘taking’ is missing. Courage is not something to take, but rather is something that Jesus provides. So when you’re discouraged and afraid, my prayer is that you would lean into your faith and rely on the courage already there for you through Jesus!
Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!”
Those who were standing near Paul said, “How dare you insult God’s high priest!”
Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’”
Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.”When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.)
There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.
The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”