I have been teaching an introductory course on Christianity to Year 7 (11/12 years old) over the past few months, and recently we covered Jesus’ death and resurrection, and then the spread of Christianity.
While doing so the parallels between Paul and Jesus struck me for the first time.
In Acts 21 we see that ‘through the Spirit the disciples urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem’. Paul goes anyway, just as Jesus headed there, knowing there was danger. Both Jesus and Paul are arrested on blasphemy charges following disturbances at the Temple, and both are harassed by a large, whipped up crowd. Both are hauled before Roman and Jewish hearings.
But here the parallels end, and it is in the differences that follow that I was really struck. Jesus remains virtually silent before his accusers. He simply refuses to defend himself. Others make claims about him; he simply says that that is what they are claiming.
But Paul simply cannot shut up. He preaches to the crowds, to the hearings and very much makes ‘a defense’ as Acts 22 tells us. Not only that, but he repeated hammers home messages about his credentials. “I am a Jew… I was thoroughly trained in the law… I am a born Roman citizen… I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee” (Acts 22/23) It seems that Paul is desperate to be all things to all people. He is seemingly in a temper – he insults the High Priest (Acts 23:4-5) without even knowing who he was.
Eventually, Paul is taken to another hearing in Caesarea, and it is then that he exercises his right to ‘appeal to Caesar’. He must be sent to Rome.
In these events, Paul and Jesus turn out to be very different characters. And what I think distinguishes them from one another is this:
Paul was a strategist. And Jesus was not.
It’s to the implications of that that I want to turn to in the next post.