As a bunch of us pastors broke into groups to pray for an urgent issue in someone’s life, I took the spiritual route and prayed that God would stop any spiritual warfare related to the situation. The pastor that followed me then prayed for the situation from a mental health perspective, which I was totally fine with and in support for, except for the fact that his tone and words seemed to be mocking or renouncing my supernaturally-minded prayer.
Belief in the supernatural has divided religious leaders back farther than you might think. In Bible times there was a scientifically-minded Jewish sect known as the Sadducees. They didn’t believe in spirits or the afterlife and so they most certainly didn’t believe that God would one day bring human bodies back to life in a resurrected state. The very idea was preposterous and offensive. The Pharisees, on the other hand, championed the doctrine of resurrection. They saw the possibility of it in their Bibles and earnestly desired to prove that this supernatural hope was true. This is probably why the Apostle Paul (a converted Pharisee himself) spent so much time in his letters writing about resurrection—for the resurrected Jesus that he served was proof that his Pharisaical doctrine had been right all along!
After being arrested, Paul was brought before a Jewish council for judgment. Once there, he noticed that the council was divided between these two Jewish sects, so he came up with a masterful plan to derail the meeting: Cite resurrection as the reason he had been imprisoned and brought before the council that day. His fellow Pharisees immediately supported him, suggesting that a spiritual being may have given him some proof of resurrection via a supernatural experience. But the Sadducees would have none of that nonsense—”Spirits aren’t real so Paul most certainly didn’t speak to one!” This was just another ridiculous Pharisee.
Paul soon had to be taken out of the room by Roman soldiers, because the sects became violent and they thought Paul would be torn apart by them—an unfortunate picture of how denominations sometimes get along. Everyone in the room that day was wrong. Even the Pharisees (who may have been theologically correct for agreeing with Paul on resurrection) were still wrong for putting Jesus on the cross. Ironically, the same sect that preached resurrection unintentionally set the act of resurrection in motion that both proved their doctrine and accused their souls. Had they opened their hearts sooner to Jesus, they might have liked what Jesus had to say and followed him.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 22:30-23:11 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.