I have been paying attention to this Roman tribune. Paul created no shortage of havoc for the man, whose name was Claudius Lysias. He was a commander of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem, overseeing 1,000 troops, and we get his story in Chapters 22-23.
Claudius was a Roman citizen. He had purchased his citizenship. As we see in the life of the apostle Paul, Roman citizenship was important. It got Paul out of no small amount of pain and suffering – although certainly not all of it.
And Claudius had to drag Paul out of the hands of the Jewish leaders not once but twice, and then Claudius had to usher Paul safely away under the cover of darkness – saving Paul from an assassination attempt. And so it’s safe to say Claudius saved Paul’s life three times.
Paul was a tough one to handle. Claudius likely wanted to keep the peace in Jerusalem, but he also had to uphold Paul’s rights as a Roman citizen. Claudius clearly valued his own citizenship, and maintaining the rights of citizens would have been important to him. And we see signs that it would not have been a good thing for Claudius to get caught by his Roman superiors mistreating one of the empire’s citizens. Notice how quickly Claudius called off Paul’s flogging in chapter 22 when he learned Paul was a Roman citizen. And notice how Claudius fudged the truth a little in his letter to Governor Felix (23:27).
And so Claudius Lysias eventually just ushered Paul away to the governor. Claudius was probably glad to be rid of Paul.
I wonder what Claudius thought about Paul. I wonder what he thought about all the hubbub surrounding this man who spoke Greek and Aramaic, who knew when and how to play his trump cards, and who smartly divided his adversaries to soften their opposition against him.
And Claudius kept rescuing Paul. He didn’t have much choice.
Paul wasn’t all that different from Claudius. They held their Roman citizenship in common. But Claudius had purchased his way into his status as a Roman, while Paul was born into his.
And then Claudius would have heard Paul preaching. Paul’s mission was to preach eternal life to the Gentiles – people like Claudius (Acts 22:21). And some of the Jews wanted Paul dead because of it.
Paul would later write to the Christians in a Roman colony in the city of Philippi, a place full of Roman citizens. And Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
This is a citizenship a person cannot buy. And it is one into which a person isn’t born. It only comes by faith.
Claudius Lysias can become for us a picture of the difficulty some people may have with the gospel – and that even we may have with the gospel. We can’t buy our citizenship in heaven. We cannot earn it. And while we can purchase our way to the top in a world such as ours – and while some people are born into such positions in this world – we ought not to rest in that.
Something altogether different may be right under our noses, bothering us and causing us headaches and trying to get our attention.