Rome at last!
Paul was both a strategist and a loyalist. He was a strategist in the sense that he had planned wisely and started correctly concerning his approach to ministry in Rome, i.e. starting with the Jews. He was a loyalist in the sense that he loved and wanted the best for his people, and, in that regard, acted faithfully, .e. starting with the Jews.
In his approach, he respectfully noted what Jesus said to the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15) who came to him seeking deliverance for her daughter: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But he also had a clear understanding of his mission as Jesus had presented it to Ananias (Acts 9) who was to lay hands on Saul after his blinding, eye opening encounter with the Lord: “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.”
Paul was now in the same position as Jesus to make a similar response as Jesus did when the Canaanite woman reasoned, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Jesus had found her faith remarkable, quite in contrast to that of the elders and others among his own people about whom he said that the prophet Isaiah had spoken correctly in saying,
8 ‘This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’”
Now Paul also had to refer to Isaiah’s prophecy.
26 ‘Go to this people and say,
You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.’
He had gone to his own people first. Relatively few took him seriously even though he communicated respect for their inherited religious tradition. He had, however, accepted this new twist about Jesus’ death and resurrection being pivotal to their inherited story, and he saw their faith with new eyes. That was, for many of them, unbearable.
He had qualified, in every sense, to preach not only to the Jews but to the Gentiles as well. And this he did, receiving and preaching to all who visited his house where he had the privilege of living on his own. He was indeed a house prisoner but one whose only charge was faithful discipleship, his following and proclaiming God’s good news since the day the Lord confronted him on the road to Damascus.
- Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
Of our life’s wild restless sea,
Day by day his clear voice soundeth,
Saying: ‘Christian, follow me.’
- As of old apostles heard it
By the Galilean lake,
Turned from home and toil and kindred,
Leaving all for his dear sake.
- Jesus calls us from the worship
Of the vain world’s golden store,
From each idol that would keep us,
Saying: ‘Christian, love me more.’
- In our joys and in our sorrows,
Days of toil and hours of ease,
Still he calls, in cares and pleasures:
‘Christian, love me more than these.’
- Jesus calls us! By your mercies,
Saviour, may we hear your call,
Give our hearts to your obedience,
Serve and love you best of all.
Cecil F. Alexander, 1818-1895