“Ignaz Semmelweis was a Hungarian physician working at the Vienna General Hospital in the 1840s. His tasks included inspections, teaching, and record-keeping. At the time, the hospital had a particularly bad reputation for maternal mortality due to puerperal fever, with a 10 percent death rate among new mothers. Another nearby hospital only had a 4 percent death rate, so Semmelweis set out to pinpoint what was causing the spread of the fever.

He noticed that the Vienna General Hospital’s medical students went from autopsying cadavers straight to birthing babies. Though he didn’t know anything about germs, he assumed it was a lack of cleanliness causing unnecessary deaths. When he had doctors and midwives wash their hands in chlorine lime solutions, the mortality rates went down to 1 to 2 percent.

It seems straightforward enough, but news of washing hands didn’t go over well in the rest of Europe. Many doctors were offended that Semmelweis saw them as dirty, their egos leading them to believe that it couldn’t be their uncleanliness that caused disease. And because Semmelweis never published an official report on why sanitation was life-saving, the medical world completely rejected him, viewing him as an embarrassment.

The rejection drove him to alcoholism, depression, and isolation. He even penned several letters lashing out at his critics, noting that the doctors who rejected his work were “irresponsible murderers” and “ignoramuses.” Toward the end of his life, he was sent to a mental asylum, where he died forgotten by his peers. Decades later, germ theory immerged with the likes of Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister practicing medicine with hygienic procedures, proving that Semmelweis’ idea indeed saved lives." Taken from http://www.medicaldaily.com/mad-scientist-6-scientists-who-were-dismissed-crazy-only-be-proven-right-years-later-362010

Why do I tell this stories? Well, as German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer observed, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” 

In Acts chapter 26 we see truth passing through the first two stages with the apostle pressing hard to persuade his hearers into the third. 

It’s been two years since Paul made his defence in front of Felix and the Jewish High Counsel. After Felix’s term of service was completed, his successor, Festus, was immediately petitioned by the Jewish leaders to return Paul to Jerusalem, for there was still a plot to have him killed along the way. To his credit, Festus did not immediately grant their request, but questioned Paul himself to determine what should be done. 

Acts 25:10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

Soon after Festus was visited by the King over the region, Agrippa, and his wife Bernice. Fetus explained the predicament he was in: Paul had appealed to Caesar, and to Ceasar he must be sent; however, he could see easily through all the charges the Jews were making against him. Agrippa was very interested in Paul’s case, having worked very closely with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, as his first administerial posting in Judea was superintendent of the Temple, a position in which it was his responsibility to appoint the high priest and oversee the Jerusalem Temple’s finances. Although he had since been promoted to the rank of King over the larger region, he still maintained an interest in the Jewish religion and their sects. 

And this it is here before Agrippa that Paul gives his clearest and most passionate defence of Jesus. Remember last week, when I said that when our works are one trial, that may not be the time to share our faith. Sometimes we have to defend our works, and hope that will lead to the opportunity to share our faith - here is that time for the apostle Paul. He is now freed from defending himself against legal charges against him, and now has the interest of the court to share his story. That’s what we pray for. Notice how skillful Paul shares. 

First, Paul Shares Who He Was Before Christ: 

Acts 26:2   “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. He shares respectfully

Acts 26:4   “My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. 5 They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. He shares about his religion background 6 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! 8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

Acts 26:9   “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities. He shares about his zeal and about his anger

Second, Paul Shared How Jesus Called Him

Acts 26:12   “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Jesus revealed himself to me

16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Jesus called me into his kingdom and his service

Notice that as he shares his testimony, he doesn’t go full on into explaining the entire gospel - he speaks just enough to share the hope we have in Christ, to keep them interested and following along. But there are appetizers here, right? Jesus called me “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” The implication is, here Agrippa, and even more, here every one who will here this and read this in the years and generations to come - this is the hope we have in Christ: to turn, to see, to receive forgiveness of sins, and a place at God’s side.

Third, Paul Shared What Jesus Is Doing Through Him

Acts 26:19   “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God [here is my testimony] , and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

And this is where they broke in, because as I said before, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed.”

Acts 26:24   And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

This is the power of the testimony of a saint of God. Last week, we saw the power of the gospel of God, that as Paul spoke of righteous and self control and the coming judgement, Felix trembled before him, because he understood that he could not stand before a Holy God. And here, though Paul has not explicitly said a word to Festus about his own sin, or his own guilt before God, Festus still cannot sit quietly and let Paul go on speaking. He cuts him off with a loud voice: “Paul, you’re mad! You’ve lost your mind!” To which Paul makes the following defence: 
We appeal to reasonable people with rational words. You can disagree with me, but I’m not crazy. This is the subjective, objective argument. It’s subjective, because yes, Paul is telling his own story, but its objective in the sense of, look at the facts - you explain the lights and the voice and the vision and the change in my life. 

we challenge people to look at the facts. Paul understood that those he was speaking with had reasonable background knowledge and access to look into the claims of the faith, and he challenged them to do so. Sometimes being a witness for Christ isn’t having all of the answers, but pointing people to where they can find answers, and challenging there reluctance to look into the claims of the faith. I was listening to a podcast this week, a baseball podcast, and its the offseason so they do an episode in which they have random conversations, and one of the questions they asked was, if you could ask God one question, what would you ask him. And one of the hosts said, “I’d ask God why doesn’t he just show up one day, like come to earth, and say, “Hey every body, I’m God, I exist, and I’m here.” And, well, none of the hosts are professing Christians, that I know of, but one of them must have had at least a tiny bit of understanding, because he replied, “Um, you know, what you just described, that’s literally Christianity” and the first guys couldn’t believe it. Nw that guys did not have a reasonable background in the faith, but I was glad that someone else on the program immediately pointed him to an answer to his question, and I hope he was challenged to look into the claims of Christ. 

we point people to the scriptures as the Word of God. Over and over again, the eyewitnesses of Jesus and the apostles share their experiences with Jesus, but they continually pointed people not to their experiences, but to the word of God. Our faith is an experiential faith, lives are changed, but our experiences are not our authority. This is really important. Jesus is the Lord, even when we don’t live like Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord because God has revealed with the utmost authority and clarity that the Christ was to suffer and die and be raised again and that forgiveness of sins be proclaimed to all nations through the church. That is our foundation, that is our story, that is our authority. 

we aim to persuade many that Christ is Lord. This is one of my favourite lines in the Bible: 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” We are not here to manipulate you, yet we do intend to persuade you. Manipulation is unethically pulling on your heartstrings, or surrounding you with a crafted experience to get you to feel all the feels. We don’t believe the gospel needs manipulation to be persuasive. Yes we get emotional at times, because God is glorious and sin is horrific, and Jesus is amazing, and what he did for us, to save us, unfathomable. 2Cor. 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.