“Word for Today” – Acts 25 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

October 23, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Truman 1The other day, I called a bank concerning a loan I have with them.  I had a question about the fees that accompany electronic payments over their website.  When I first called, the phone bank operator, apparently befuddled by my question, answered, “I’ll need to check with my manager on your question.”  After several minutes on hold, she finally returned to the line: “I’m sorry, you’ll need to talk to our electronic transaction department about your question.”  She then proceeded to give me the number.  So I called them.  This phone bank operator too had to check with her manager about my question.  And then came her reply, “I’m sorry, but this is a question for our loan department.  Here’s the number.”  After a half an hour of being sent around to different departments and waiting for various phone bank operators to “check with their managers” about my question, I never did get a clear answer.  It was a frustrating experience.

Whether its an operator at a bank with a tough question, a waiter at a restaurant with a disgruntled patron, or a politician in a sticky situation, many people have a tendency to “pass the buck” – to defer to someone higher up the organizational ladder to make a hard decision or give a hard answer that they don’t care to make or give.  And yet, as we all know, the buck has to stop somewhere.  Indeed, Harry Truman, pictured above, proudly displayed this famous placard in his Oval Office:  “The Buck Stops Here.”  And indeed it’s true.  For once a question, problem, or concern got to the president’s desk, there was no one “higher up” to whom to defer.  The buck had to stop with President Truman.

In our reading for today from Acts 25, Paul is in Caesarea in prison, where he has been languishing for some two years now, because the procurator of this area, Antonius Felix, in a nod to Paul’s Jewish dissenters who were also Felix’s constituents, has refused to free him.  But now a new ruler is on the throne: Porcius Festus.

With this new ruler, Paul’s enemies take the opportunity to once again present their so-called “charges” against him in the hopes of getting him transferred to stand trial in Jerusalem so that they can ambush and kill him while he is on his way (verse 4).  Paul, aware of his enemies’ malicious intent, defends himself before Festus:  “I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well…I appeal to Caesar” (verses 10-11)!  Paul, with these words, is appealing to be sent “up the ladder.”  He wants to talk to Festus’ manager.  And Festus, at a loss at how to deal with such a case, happily obliges.  As he later tells his friend King Agrippa:

When Paul’s 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; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. When Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar. (verses 18-20)

Notably, the Greek word that Festus uses for “send” in verse 20 when he speaks of sending Paul to Caesar is anapempo, meaning not only “send,” but “send up.”  In other words, Festus is happy to pass the buck up the ladder as it concerns Paul’s case.  He does not want to investigate some points of dispute “about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.”

As much as Festus may have tried to send Paul and his message of Jesus’ death and resurrection up the ladder to Caesar, the fact is, you can’t pass the buck when it comes to Jesus.  No, each person must grapple with what Christ’s work for him or her self.  As CS Lewis famously said, “When Christ died, he died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world” (Mere Christianity, IV:3).  If Christ died for you as if you are the only person in the world, that means there is no one else to whom you can pass off Christ’s death and say disparagingly, “You deal with this.”  No, the buck stops with you because Christ has confronted you with his crucifixion and resurrection.  Why has he confronted you?  Because he loves you.  My prayer for you is that, by faith, you receive his love and trust his salvation.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

Word for Today” – Acts 24 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Acts 26 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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