In Acts 25, Luke records Paul went before the courts of Festus and Agrippa. We also learn the Jewish religious leaders were pressing charges and asked Festus to condemn Paul. However, Festus refused to do so without cause or without a trial. He even goes as far as to say the accusations were not what he expected. The religious leaders’ accusations were “something about their religion and a dead man named Jesus.”
I would not expect that either. Religious matters were not dealt with in a Roman court nor would they be sent to a higher court. But why is this important? According to Paul’s claim, Jesus was not dead; through his resurrection, he is alive. It is our Gospel! Without the resurrection, our faith is decimated. Similarly, Paul’s proclamation of Christ created complications for the religious leaders. So, what exactly is going on here?
The death and resurrection of Christ bring beautiful news for those who believe. The death and resurrection is a problem for those who trust in their own means for righteousness. The Gospel message put the Jewish leadership out of business. In Acts 23, we learn the Pharisees believed in a resurrection to come, while the Sadducees did not. Paul’s testament was a major complication. For the Pharisee, this news meant their cohort crucified the Christ. For the Sadducees, this event means their doctrine was flawed and misguided. Furthermore, the resurrection meant these two religious groups lost their power; God took it away and handed it to the people, the priesthood of believers. Ultimately, these religious leaders used the law to garner power and suppress the people.
Jesus said he did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it. The resurrection and living redeemed of Christ mean that those who should believe will not perish. However, those who do not recognize the resurrection will not receive everlasting life. Jesus warned the religious leaders—calling them whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful but are dead inside. The same, familiar sting came from Paul. Righteousness does not come from the law, but by the works accomplished by Jesus Christ on the cross.
On resurrection Sunday, the good news was only bad news for the tomb which no longer occupied the great and high priest, Jesus Christ. Paul preached an empty tomb and a resurrected Savior. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” (Romans 10:15).
Be encouraged that our works are not what we need to rely upon. Instead, we place our faith and our hope in the great work accomplished on the cross. Better yet, be encouraged that it is God who guides our steps and puts us in places where we will share the Good News.