Paul, Apostle of Christ

Luke the Greek evangelist enters Rome in secret with the persecution of Christians by Emperor Nero underway. He has been sent by other Christian communities outside the city to meet with Priscilla and Aquila, the leaders of the community hiding out in Rome. Aquila and Priscilla are currently debating whether to stay in Rome and provide hope to fellow Christians or to leave the city with their community and avoid certain death.

Paul has been imprisoned inside Mamertine Prison for his strong influence as a Christian leader which makes him a threat to Nero’s power. Mauritius Gallus, the newly appointed prefect of the prison, accuses Paul of burning half of Rome down and, by Nero’s decree, sentences him to death. After meeting with Aquila and Priscilla, Luke sneaks into the prison and joyfully greets a weary, physically beaten Paul. Both men agree that Paul’s time on Earth is nearing an end and so Luke convinces him to help write an account of how Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, came to be one of Christianity’s greatest leaders. Although Mauritius discovers that Luke snuck into the prison aided by high-ranking Romans, he allows him to visit Paul unscathed.

Paul narrates his origins: As Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish boy, he was influenced by the zealotry of his leaders and witnessed the martyrdom of Stephen at their hands for professing faith in Jesus Christ. This event made Saul vow to destroy all Christians throughout the world until the day he rode for Damascus with his brethren. He became blinded by God and heard His voice asking why Saul persecuted Him. This event along with Saul’s meeting Ananias, a disciple of Christ, humbled Saul so deeply that he repented of his actions. Ananias restored Saul’s sight and baptized him in the name of the Lord, which led to Saul rejecting his former name and becoming Paul.

The Christian community continues to suffer losses, and Cassius, who lost a cousin to the persecution, adamantly calls for Christians to seek revenge against the Romans. Although Luke rebukes Cassius by saying that Paul never sought revenge or wished ill upon those who harmed him, Luke begins to sympathize with the need for retribution after witnessing the Romans’ cruelty and barbarity. However, Paul admonishes him for “giving up on the world when Christ did not” and tells him that the very love which Christ died for is the only way to counter this evil. Inspired by these words, Luke receives Paul’s promise that he will have the grace and strength to endure.

Mauritius laments being made prefect of the prison despite his many deeds for Rome and the fact that his daughter is dying from a terrible sickness even with all his sacrifices to the Roman gods. Having heard of Paul’s reputation as a preacher and miracle worker, he speaks with Paul and relays his concerns about his sickly daughter. Paul suggests that Luke be allowed to examine her and help, but Mauritius refuses to allow a Christian in his home against the protests of his wife who grows impatient with Mauritius’ hubris. Further, Mauritius has Luke imprisoned believing that he and Paul are plotting an escape from the prison to lead an uprising against Rome despite Paul’s assurances to the contrary.

Having lost all patience with Priscilla and Aquila’s pacifism, Cassius takes matters into his hands by bringing an armed group of men to storm the prison and free Paul. But, Paul rejects their rescue attempt by saying Christ has already won the victory upon the cross. Dejected, Cassius and the others escape before more guards arrive and disappear into the night. Mauritius angrily accuses Paul and Luke of the conspiracy to escape despite their protests and has Luke imprisoned with other Christians. After being sentenced to Nero’s circus to be devoured by wild beasts, Luke leads the other prisoners in prayer asking the Lord to forgive their captors for their impending execution.

Fearing the loss of his daughter, Mauritius finally relents and has Luke brought to his house to save her. Luke sends Mauritius to Aquila and Priscilla for supplies needed to heal the child. Amazed that Luke would entrust the lives of other Christians to him, Mauritius goes alone to their hiding place and begs for their assistance. Although initially wary of a Roman prefect asking for help, they ultimately give Mauritius the requested supplies. With the items delivered, Luke uses his healing skills as a physician to cure the prefect’s daughter of her illness at the same time that the imprisoned Christians are thrown into the circus.

With his daughter finally healthy again, Mauritius graciously spares Luke’s life and thanks Paul for his continued kindness and compassion. Although Mauritius regrets the deaths of the Christians in the arena, Paul is hopeful that Mauritius may yet come to know Jesus Christ. Paul and Luke express their belief that all the world shall know the Christians by their love and that they will meet again. Aquila and Priscilla, having decided at last to leave Rome with their community, agree to deliver Luke’s completed writings to Timothy, thus ensuring that the Acts of the Apostles will be told and retold across the world.

Luke remains in Rome to continue evangelizing in the name of Christianity. As the Christians escape into the countryside, Paul is escorted outside the prison to be executed by decapitation with Luke watching it unfold. Mauritius shakes Paul’s hand in a final gesture of goodwill and respect. As Paul’s execution is underway, he narrates to Timothy saying that he is thankful to have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. The final scene depicts Paul arriving in Heaven as a crowd of people greet him joyfully, including all those he once persecuted and killed. He is last seen walking towards Jesus filled with peace.