Thursday, August 23, 2012



Festus, the new governor of this region, was bent on hearing Paul's defense in Caesarea. Note in verse 8: 8while Paul said in his own defense, "I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar." 9But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?" 10But Paul said, "I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. 11"If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar." 12Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, "You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go."

Festus was a different type from Felix. Felix was actually an enemy to the Jews and was more concerned about himself and his image than the people he governed. We know very little about Festus, but what we do know proves that he was a just and upright man. He died after only two years in office, but he died with an untainted name. The Jews tried to take advantage of him; they tried to persuade him to send for Paul to come to Jerusalem; for once again they had formed a plot to assassinate Paul on the way. But Festus was a Roman, with the Roman instinct for justice; and he told them to come to Caesarea and plead their case there. From Paul's answer we can deduce the malicious charges which they leveled against him.
13Now when several days had elapsed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. 14While they were spending many days there, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying, "There is a man who was left as a prisoner by Felix; 15and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16"I answered them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man before the accused meets his accusers face to face and has an opportunity to make his defense against the charges. 17"So after they had assembled here, I did not delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought before me. 18"When the accusers stood up, they began bringing charges against him not of such crimes as I was expecting, 19but they simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20"Being at a loss how to investigate such matters, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these matters. 21"But when Paul appealed to be held in custody for the Emperor's decision, I ordered him to be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar."

22Then Agrippa said to Festus, "I also would like to hear the man myself." "Tomorrow," he said, "you shall hear him." 23So, on the next day when Agrippa came together with Bernice amid great pomp, and entered the auditorium accompanied by the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24Festus said, "King Agrippa, and all you gentlemen here present with us, you see this man about whom all the people of the Jews appealed to me, both at Jerusalem and here, loudly declaring that he ought not to live any longer. 25"But I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death; and since he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. 26"Yet I have nothing definite about him to write to my lord. Therefore I have brought him before you all and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the investigation has taken place, I may have something to write. 27"For it seems absurd to me in sending a prisoner, not to indicate also the charges against him."

Agrippa was king of a small part of Palestine, which included Galilee and Perea; but he knew quite well that he held even that limited realm by the grace of the Romans. They had put him there and they could just as easily remove him. It was therefore his custom to pay a courtesy visit to the Roman governor when he entered his province. Bernice was a sister of Drusilla, the wife of Felix, and she was also a sister of Agrippa himself. Festus, knowing that Agrippa had the most intimate knowledge of Jewish faith and practice, proposed to discuss Paul's case with him. He gave Agrippa a characteristically impartial review of the situation as it existed at that moment; and now the stage was set for Paul to plead his case and bear his witness before a king.

Festus had gotten himself into a difficulty. It was Roman law that if a man appealed to Caesar and was sent to Rome there must be sent with him a written account of the case and of the charges against him. Festus' problem was that, as far as he could see, there was no charge to send. That's why this meeting had been convened.

Into such a scene came Paul, the little Jewish tent-maker, with his hands in chains; and yet from the moment he speaks, it is Paul who holds the stage. When a man has Christ in his heart and God at his right hand he has the secret of power. Of whom then shall he be afraid?

I'm reminded of the scene where Jesus was sending out the 12 (Matthew 10) or the 72 (Luke 10) and He made it clear that they were to look for the leadership in a city and bring them the peace of God. He called them the "worthy" people-those who were interested. They were sent out to take the message of the Gospel-Jesus-to these cities. And, if these presumed "worthy" people rejected their message-were not interested anymore-then they were to shake the dust off their feet and move on. Then, Jesus makes an interesting statement in Matthew 10: 16"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you."

This is precisely what is happening here. Paul brought before governors and kings and about to speak, maybe his best message to the king in the next chapter.

The Spirit of God is still working in the same way today. When you are in a situation and you don't know what to say, He will give you the words. This is a great evidence of God at work in you. Count on it next time you are caught in this kind of situation, where you know you must say something, yet you don't have any idea of how to say it or what to say. Count on the Spirit of God to give you the words and then marvel over what you just said.