Paul was in Rome. He was locked up.
Whether at this moment he was in a dungeon or a cell or a house isn’t clear, but he was not a tourist. Not free to roam around the city. He had visitors, but not always. A lot of time he spent by himself.
While locked up, he wrote a letter to a man he’d been mentoring. He reminded Timothy of lots of lessons, because this was his last letter, his last chance.
But when we come to the part of the letter we read this morning, Paul gets very personal, very reflective. And he says,
“No one came to my first defense.”
Paul was talking about what we would call an arraignment hearing. You stand in front of a judge. You hear the reading of the charges against you. You get to respond by agreeing that you are guilty or by declaring your innocence. If you admit, the trial is over. You get to end this.
If you declare your innocence, the trial gets scheduled. You go back to jail and begin to plan your defense. It’s got to be a hard situation.
And Paul writes to Timothy and says, “no one came.”
All alone, only guilty of obeying God. And no one came to support him. No one came to speak on his behalf. No one came to intercede with the judge. It was Paul and everyone against him.
Like being stuck in a hospital bed, alone. Like being at work out on assignment. Like being a Cubs fan in Cleveland. All alone except for everyone who is on the other side.
Paul felt the kind of isolation many people feel when they are doing the right thing and everything goes wrong.
“But the Lord.” That’s how Paul follows up on this feeling of isolation.
“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.”
Paul says that the one person who came was the one person who cared for him, the one person who mattered to him, the Lord.
Paul doesn’t condemn those who didn’t come.
He doesn’t talk about how he doesn’t deserve to be in this situation.
He’s a much different person than he used to be. He used to be the kind of person that Jesus talked about in his story of the Pharisee and the tax collector.