When we talk to people about Jesus we cannot know the reaction we will get. Because of this some Christians are hesitant to mention Jesus to those they know for fear the reaction will be negative. We can take comfort from the apostle Paul. Not only was he willing to speak to others about Jesus, the reactions he received cannot be worse than the reactions we might have to deal with.
“At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defence. ‘You are out of your mind, Paul!’ he shouted. ‘Your great learning is driving you insane.’ ‘I am not insane, most excellent Festus,’ Paul replied. ‘What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.’ Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Short time or long – I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.’” (Acts 26:24-29 NIV)
Paul had been explaining to the gathered audience, made up of not only Festus and Agrippa but also Roman officers and prominent men from Caesarea, about his life as a Jew, his persecution of Christians, and then his meeting Jesus as he travelled to Damascus. His meeting Jesus had changed his life and he proceeded to tell them about his telling others about Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles.
When Festus heard of all this he interrupted Paul: “You are out of your mind”, you must be insane! He could not understand what Paul was talking about, being someone recently arrived in Judea and not knowing much about the Jews. If he couldn’t understand it, his conclusion was that it was nonsense. Paul responded by letting him know that what he was relating was not only true but also reasonable.
Paul then turned to Agrippa and put him on the spot: “Do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” But notice Agrippa’s response: “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” In other words, he rejected what Paul said about Jesus. One of the problems with the written word is you cannot tell the ‘tone’ of Agrippa’s voice. Was he serious? Was he sarcastic? This has led to differing translations of this statement, perhaps partially due to the translator’s interpretation.
One thing we can know – Paul took his response seriously. He didn’t care whether it took a short or a long time, he wanted Agrippa and everyone there to become a follower of Jesus as he was, but without the chains.
When we talk to people about Jesus we may get similar reactions to these. Some will reject what we are saying because they don’t understand about God and what he wants of us. We need to, if possible, begin by laying a foundation so that they will take Jesus and what he did seriously.
Others will be like Agrippa – they may show interest of some type. We need to encourage and teach them as they learn more about Jesus. We need to be praying that they will accept the good news of Jesus and what he did in providing forgiveness.
But it doesn’t matter what reaction we get – we still need to be telling others about Jesus and the hope we have because of him. Some will accept this good news and change their lives, being united with him. Others will reject it as something they don’t think they need. But no matter what the reaction, always be ready to speak a good word for Jesus.
Photo by Jon Galloway: Herod’s palace in Caesarea Maritima, November 2019.
Readings for next week: Acts 20-26