One of the things that is great about our particular daily bible reading is how often the Old Testament readings line up with their New Testament parallels. Today is another such day. In the Old Testament reading we see God declaring that there will be one city, one central place, where Jewish worship will be centered. Deuteronomy 12:4-7:
You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way. 5 But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, 6 and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7 And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.
Of course that place will come to be Jerusalem. After declaring that there will be a holy city God goes on to explain something very clearly. Every other idol, every other temple, every other city where there is worship to another god is to be destroyed. The holy land is to be cleansed all signs of pagan idolatry.
Then we come to today’s New Testament reading. Paul is being held by the Romans for his own protection. He is taken to the Sanhedrin so the Romans can learn exactly what he is accused of. There he debates with the Jewish leaders. When Paul argues that he is on trial for preaching the resurrection of the dead the hearing descends into chaos. Old rivalries erupt between the Pharisees (who believe in a resurrection) and the Sadducees (who do not). Paul is whisked away by the Romans to keep him safe. The Lord then speaks to Paul:
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
Whereas before God sent the Jewish people into the Holy Land and command the scourge of paganism to be removed now he is sending his emissaries into the great heart of paganism. Again the idols and the false temples will be torn down. In their place new churches will be built. Great Churches that contain the new sacrifice and the new temple will be built there. Both Peter and Paul will travel there and both will be martyred there. On top of Peter’s bones the greatest of these Churches will be built, bring to fulfillment the prophecy of Jesus, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church”.