Thursday after the Third Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Acts 24:1-27 (NKJV)
1 Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. These gave evidence to the governor against Paul. 2 And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation, saying: “Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, 3 we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. 4 Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us. 5 For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, and wanted to judge him according to our law. 7 But the commander Lysias came by and with great violence took him out of our hands, 8 commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him.” 9 And the Jews also assented, maintaining that these things were so.
10 Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: “Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, 11 because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. 16 This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. 17 Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, 18 in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. 19 They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. 20 Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, 21 unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.'”
22 But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.” 23 So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him. 24 And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” 26 Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him. 27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.
The Jews accuse Paul, saying, “For we have found this man a plague.” The plague is something to be avoided at all costs, for if you contract it you will most likely die. What they mean is that Paul and his Gospel are something that brings spiritual sickness and death. How ironic, that by calling Paul a plague, a cause of death, they confirm their unbelief to the world! St. Paul had written to the Corinthian church, we are “to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life” (2 Cor. 2:15-16). To these Jews Paul smelled like death but to God and those who believed his message, Paul had the fragrance of everlasting life.
So it is with the Gospel, Christ, His Christians and His pastors, today. We are avoided like the plague because we smell like death to the world. To the world our odor is offensive because we preach and believe a righteousness that is not our own but given to us by Christ. To God we have the fragrance of ones who have been forgiven all our sins by Christ’s Word and Sacraments. To God we are the aroma of absolution that wafts from hearts set free from sin and guilt. We may very well be viewed as a plague by the world, something diseased and deathly. But to God, all who are in Christ Jesus by faith are a well-pleasing aroma because by faith we no longer smell like our sin but we smell like our Savior.
Lord God, grant that we may so pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal. Amen.