The End...and the Beginning
(In Rome) After they had set a day to meet with (Paul), they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,
‘Go to this people and say,
You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
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.’
Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”
He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. ~ Acts 28:23-31
And so Acts ends and Paul ends up in Rome.
Where he would die.
It isn't known exactly when and how Paul died. Tradition holds that he was beheaded during the reign of the Emperor Nero, sometime between 64 and 67 CE.
To his last breath, Paul taught that Jesus Christ was Lord.
After Jesus himself, Paul is considered the most important figure in Christian history.
He is the founder of Christian theology.
And where did he begin?
As a persecutor.
As an enemy.
As an outsider.
The end of Paul's story was only the beginning of the larger story. It is a story that is still unfolding.
One that has had highs and lows.
And continues to have highs and lows.
And yet the story continues.
The truth continues to be told.
Jesus Christ is Lord.
Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.
And thanks to Paul, we have been able to learn just how much that means.
Are there Pauls out there calling for us to listen to them? People, like Paul, who are considered outsiders or enemies?
And yet who continue to tell the truth of God's story?
Savior, Lord...thank you for your servant Paul, and all the witnesses who have brought you to us. Amen