but when paul was about to open his mouth, gallio said to the jews, “if it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, o jews, i would have reason to accept your complaint. but since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. i refuse to be a judge of these things.” and he drove them from the tribunal. and they all seized sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. but gallio paid no attention to any of this. [acts 18:14-17]
the roman preconsuls and governors were mid-level politicians, and because they were concerned with maintaining position and power, they would often make (or not make) decisions that were politically advantageous for themselves: gallio’s statement–”see to it yourselves” has been uttered before–
so when pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” [matthew 27:24]
when jesus came before the crowds, he did not defend himself–
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. [isaiah 53:7]
paul however, was keen on opening his mouth–sometimes he used his roman citizenship to appeal to higher authorities, but in this instance, he did not need to: when he was ‘about to open his mouth’ God orchestrated circumstances where paul was allowed to go free without a word–not only that, the main instigator of his persecution (sosthenes) was beaten and humiliated, allowing for paul to stay for many days (acts 18:18) after being brought before the tribunal.
when i am accused of wrongdoing, i desire so strongly to defend myself, to fight for my rights, to prove my innocence; and of course, in many instances, i have sinned and have no right to a defense. Instead, i should be confessing my sin and repenting. but what about those times when i am accused wrongly? when i am quick to speak, i often sin in the way that i respond to charges, my lack of humility and my desire to be right trump the assertion of the truth–i need to realize the truth–that God defends the righteous:
the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
the Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him. [psalm 37:39-40]
when our refuge is in Jesus, when we are abiding in his presence, we will not need our arguments and reasoning as a defense. let us rest in him alone–let us search our hearts and confess and repent when we do sin (all the time!) and let us humbly, patiently bear false accusations addressing them in the Spirit, knowing that God will deal with all sin, in his wrath for those who are not in his Son, and through the cross for those who are in Jesus Christ.