Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2017
Arrest in Jerusalem
Texts: Acts 21; Romans 2:28, 29; Galatians 5:6; Acts 22; Acts 23:1-30; Matthew 22:23-32 September 15, 2018
Ken Wyniemko spent nine years in prison before DNA proved he wasn’t a rapist. He’s free, but he’s still haunted by the horrors of penitentiary life. “I saw people get stabbed to death," said Wyniemko. “I have times where I can’t sleep at night and the images keep popping up in my head." When Wyniemko’s conviction was overturned in 2003, exonerations were relatively rare. That’s changed, thanks to advances in forensic science and a new willingness by police and prosecutors to take a second look at potentially tainted cases.
Aaron Salter left prison on August 15 after serving 15 years for a murder he didn’t commit. One man’s testimony convicted Salter, who later said he wasn’t sure Salter was the gunman. At Salter’s sentencing, the victim’s sister told the court they convicted the wrong person for the killing. Salter’s attorney, Wolf Mueller, said: “This was a total frame-job. The police knew he didn’t do it.” Police showed the sole witness to the shooting one photo of Salter and asked if he recognized him as the gunman. The normal method is to show a “six pack”—six photographs of possible suspects—to avoid leading the witness. Salter said he isn’t bitter about how his case turned out. “I just want to spend time with my family,” he said.
While it’s impossible to say how many criminal cases result in wrongful convictions, studies suggest there are likely hundreds of thousands of innocent people behind bars. A 2013 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice found 12.6 percent of convictions were innocent defendants. Wyniemko said the numbers are staggering. “Even if it’s just 10 percent, we have 2.3 million people in prison in the United States,” Wyniemko says, “so you're talking about 230,000 innocent people behind bars. If that doesn’t get someone’s attention, something’s wrong with them.”1
Our lesson this week looks at an instance where the apostle Paul did everything just right in the eyes of the Jews. When he returned to Jerusalem he agreed to show that, even though he preached salvation through Jesus Christ, he didn’t reject his Jewish heritage. Against his better judgment, he agreed to sponsor the Nazirite vows of some Jewish believers, including participating in a seven-day purification ritual. The Jerusalem Church leaders expected that local Jews would then accept Paul’s good intentions. It didn’t work.
The Jewish leaders were intent on convicting Paul for what they claimed were his heretical teachings, no matter what. They trumped up some charges that he brought a Gentile into the inner court of the temple. Though he did no such thing, here’s a case where those who yell the loudest win—the shouts of the accusers overruled both common sense and the truth. Paul’s experience here is a good example of how those with nefarious intentions can nullify the truth by labeling it a lie.