Hope | Fiona Dorman

Acts 26

1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: 2 “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.

4 “The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. 6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. 7 This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. 8 Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?

9 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.

12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘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. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 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.’

19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”

32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”


To counter the accusations made against him, Paul tells King Agrippa his story – one that we read for the third time in the book of Acts. The central point of the story is that he knows Jesus rose from the dead because he met him and had his life transformed through that encounter. He insists that this does not violate his faith as a Jew – it completes it. Jesus is the Messiah who was promised for centuries through the prophets. He is the long-awaited hope of Israel.

The word ‘hope’ is a crucial word in his speech. Not a shallow hope like we might use in everyday conversation, but a strong deep conviction that Jesus fulfils God’s promise to deliver his people and bring about a new age. 

Hope in the risen Jesus is the heart of the Gospel and of the book of Acts. Paul’s whole reality is centred on that hope. What we believe about Jesus’ resurrection shapes and changes how we live right now, and what we can expect to be our future destiny.

Paul speaks with such authority, although he’s a prisoner standing in chains, surrounded by the ‘great and the good’ in all their magnificence. His words provoke a violent reaction from Festus who shouts that he’s completely mad. But Paul keeps his cool, speaks politely and calmly and even tries to engage the king in dialogue. His certainty in Jesus as his living Lord means he isn’t shaken by others’ rejection.

The worldwide news can appear to be devoid of hope. Wars, refugees, droughts and fires… Political leaders disconnected from the people they should represent… Hopelessness abounds. Even on a personal level, life events, disappointments, real difficulties can obscure our hope and leave us floundering. 

Yet the message of hope is so clear in what Paul proclaimed then and in what the Church throughout the centuries has proclaimed ever since. So do you hold that hope centrally in your own life? Do you feel a deep-rooted hope in the now, despite what life brings, because of what you know of Jesus, alive today?

Hope is not something you can make yourself have! However hard you might try to ‘think positive’, this is not how hope will root itself within you. Asking the Holy Spirit to come and fill us with hope, to help us join the dots between the faith we proclaim and the life we live, that is how we can know the profound hope that Paul lived by.


Fiona Dorman