To Open Their Eyes

Paul is giving his defense to King Agrippa, who is the great-grandson to King Herod who had attempted to kill Jesus as a baby. The line of Herod kings that had been passed down throughout the years had been brutal as they ruled over the land, working to stamp out any threat to their reign.

Yet here was Paul, speaking again of Jesus, the one that he would call both Savior and King, and he is doing it directly in front of a Herod, King Agrippa.

Paul explains that he has seen the fulfillment of the purpose of his people, and it is in this fulfillment that he has placed his hope. His people are the Jews and the role of the Jewish people within God’s plan has been to offer blessing and hope to the world. That blessing and hope was fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah, in the coming of Jesus Christ.

Paul explains that he has seen this hope for his people fulfilled. That is why he can say that agrees with the Pharisees. He was one, and he still believes everything that the Pharisees believe. They believe in the resurrection of the dead? Yes, so does he! And why does he believe it? Because he has seen it. He has seen the resurrected Messiah. He has seen Jesus and he has been commissioned and sent by him.

It is precisely this commissioning that caught my attention this morning as I read Acts 26. I noticed a significant shift in how Paul recounts what Jesus has said to him and the messages that God had given previously. Here is what I mean:

First, take a look at Isaiah. When God calls Isaiah, he sends him to his people with what seems to be a very strange calling. He says:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? ”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

He said, “Go and tell this people:
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

Isaiah 6:8-10

Hmm… that’s really strange. God is telling Isaiah, His prophet, that he should go and tell the people that they should be ever seeing but not perceiving? Ever hearing but not understanding?

God’s people had disobeyed and walked away from Him. They worshiped other gods. They lived like the other nations. They refused God as their King, and for this God would bring punishment upon the Israelites. We see that the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans all come to rule over the Jews, taking possession over the land of Israel. So before they could repent and return back to God, their rebellion must be punished and so Isaiah’s role is to proclaim a message to the Israelites that the time of healing was past and the time of judgment and punishment was upon them.

Interestingly, even Jesus spoke in a similar way. He frequently spoke to the people in parables. In one time in particular, when the disciples came to ask Jesus why he always spoke in parables (presumably to ask why he doesn’t just speak to the people plainly!), Jesus said:

Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

Matthew 13:11-13

Jesus went on to say that the prophecy spoken to Isaiah was fulfilled with these people, these Jews specifically who were listening to him. He was giving them the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom, but they weren’t allowed to comprehend them. Only to those that Jesus had chosen would those secrets be revealed. These were the ones that Jesus would allow to understand the Kingdom of God.

But here is where we get to the difference. As Paul recounts what happened to him on the road to Damascus as Jesus appeared to him, he says that Jesus said something very different to him. He said that Jesus told him:

Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

Acts 26:16-18

The time has come. God’s plan to reestablish His Kingdom on the earth is in motion and Jesus has come to redeem his people, purchasing them away from the kingdom of darkness to come into the Kingdom of light. The people can receive forgiveness for their sins and they can take their place within the Kingdom because they have been sanctified by Christ.

What is more, Paul says, none of this has happened in a way that is hidden. He points out to Festus and Agrippa that Agrippa would know all of these things. They have been done in the open, and now it is time to understand the meaning of all of these things. It is time to open the doors for all men, whether Jews or Gentiles – everyone! – to come to Christ. The time of judgment and punishment is over. The time for the Kingdom and the worship of the King has come. And this is the work that Jesus has given to Paul, to speak and open the eyes of all people so that they can clearly see and come to Jesus.

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