Do you want to hear one of the saddest verses in all the Bible? Let me tell you a story.
Paul had been arrested for preaching Jesus and he is being tossed from one court to another as Roman judges spent their time coaxing one another's egos and skirting around justice by passing the question of what to do with Paul on to each other. In Acts 25, we find Paul standing trial before Festus, who is planning to pass him along to Caesar. Before he does, King Agrippa comes along and they discuss Paul's case. Festus admits that Paul's case has to do with religion.
17 “When his accusers came here for the trial, I didn’t delay. I called the case the very next day and ordered Paul brought in. 18 But the accusations made against him weren’t any of the crimes I expected.19 Instead, it was something about their religion and a dead man named Jesus, who Paul insists is alive. 20 I was at a loss to know how to investigate these things, so I asked him whether he would be willing to stand trial on these charges in Jerusalem. ~Acts 25
Did you catch it? "I was at a loss to know how to investigate these things."
We have this guy, who was intelligent enough to become a judge, a governor in the Roman Empire (and I'm going to leave aside all of the political jokes running through my head). Festus had judged other cases, and as history records it, he showed wisdom in governing.
But when it comes to matters of religion...he is "at a loss to know how to investigate these things."
When it comes to knowing what is true or false "about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive", he had no clue how to figure it out.
Festus had before him a guy whom we refer to as one of the greatest missionaries the world has ever known, but Festus has no idea how to proceed.
What questions should I ask? How can I verify who is making up their story? Does Paul belong in a looney bin? Are the religious leaders accusing Paul simply jealous of their waning influence over other people who acknowledged the truth of Jesus? Festus is "at a loss".
We are less than 50 years from when Jesus lived, died, and rose again. The church is exploding in growth around the Roman Empire, largely because of Paul, and one of the Roman governors doesn't know "how to investigate these things."
The man has no direction in discovering truth...or at least in accepting it when he heard it. This got me thinking. How many people does this describe in our world today?
- How many people are as God described the Ninevites, unable to discern their right from their left?
- How many people are so engaged with our polytheistic culture, that to single out one truth as absolute, would be an impossibility?
- How many people are so persuaded by lies of sin, entangled in what they must have, must keep, must use, that to consider an alternative would seem disastrous?
- How many people are so stuck in their habits and comforts, that to investigate such matters would be very uncomfortable?
How many people can't seem to figure out the most basics of truth (am I a boy or a girl? how did God make me?)? People struggling with the basics who try to answer questions about creation, purpose, truth and absolutes, will seem to be in deeper waters than they can swim.
Is there any hope for them?
If only there were an organization that could handle such matters. Of course, it would have to be filled with people. It would need to be global. It would need people who are dedicated and committed to a cause greater than themselves. Perhaps something where they meet each week, and throughout, to encourage one another, to grow in their faith, and then to be prepared and ready to provide the answers to people's questions.
If only such an organization existed.