Event(s): Paul appeals to Caesar; Paul appears before King Agrippa
Today’s Text:Acts 25:1-27
Tomorrow’s Text: Acts 26:1-32
As we saw in the previous chapter, Governor Felix had a bent towards procrastination. He postponed Paul’s trial until he supposedly heard from Claudius Lysias, though he had already provided his full testimony in his letter to Governor Felix.
Felix kept Paul around, hoping it would benefit him financially, and from time to time would engage Paul in theological discussion. But as Paul began to speak of righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix quickly got uncomfortable, afraid, even. As those truths confronted his own immorality, Felix postponed the discussion further until a “more convenient time”. He then went on to postpone Paul’s verdict for yet another two years, until Felix was removed from his post for handling a conflict in Caesarea too harshly (as history records).
Acts 25:2 “informed him against Paul; and they petitioned him” Festus was playing his political cards well, making it a priority to meet with the Jewish leaders almost immediately upon taking office. Paul’s accusers saw this as the perfect opportunity to try again.
Acts 25:3 “while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him” The Jews already knew, through past experience, that their “case” was far too weak to hold up in Roman court. They resort to plan B: get Paul back on their turf, extract him out of protective custody and fulfill their original assassination attempt.
Acts 25:7 “which they could not prove” Another weak, failed attempt. Luke summarizes this for us, implying that this trial went very much the same as the last time around.
Acts 25:9 “wanting to do the Jews a favor…” Here we are with another political move. The fact that Festus had to “ask” Paul if he would be willing to take his case to Jerusalem indicates that Paul was not a common criminal, but an unconvicted Roman citizen with rights that the governor had to honor.
Acts 25:11 “I appeal to Caesar.” Any Roman citizen who felt they were not getting justice or in danger of violent coercion or capital punishment in a lower court had a legal right to appeal to the “Supreme Court”, or Caesar. We know, that Paul does not consider himself a victim. He’s using the leverage he has at his disposal, even if it causes him inconvenience and/or discomfort, as an opportunity to bear witness to the Lord. They’re thinking of how intimidating it will be for Paul to present himself before Caesar; Paul is thinking in terms of Whom he will get to represent.
Acts 25:13 “King Agrippa and Bernice” This King Agrippa is grandson of Herod the Great. He was the last in the Herodian dynasty, and has been considered the best of the Herods. Bernice was his sister, as well as the sister of Drusilla. Because of his position, one of his responsibilities was that of superintendent of the Jerusalem temple. He also had the authority to appoint Israel’s high priests.
Acts 25:14 “Festus laid Paul’s case before the king…” Being part Jewish himself, and growing up in the Herodian dynasty, Agrippa was an expert in Jewish matters. Since Paul had appealed to Caesar, Festus had to write a letter that would accompany Paul, providing the details of the case. Festus was happy to get this matter off his hands, but he had to figure out the best way to present it all before the emperor.
Acts 25:22 “I also would like to hear the man myself.” Agrippa’s intent was to cross-examine Paul so that he could find something worthy of Felix adding to his letter, as Festus later discloses in verse 26.
Acts 25:23 “Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp” Everyone who was anyone would have shown up for this hearing. It’s so crazy to think of how important they made themselves appear, but actually, the most influential person in the room, was Paul.
Paul’s enemies were doing everything they could to get him out of under the covering of the Roman officials. They desperately needed him on their own turf, isolated, away from the safety of the soldiers who surrounded him. We can really see a spiritual parallel when it comes to the attacks the enemy launches on our lives.
The Bible says the enemy comes only to steal, kill and destroy. We are under God’s protective custody, and when we surround ourselves with other believers, and don’t live life isolated, we live a fortified life – the enemy can’t access us. One of his primary strategies, then, is to pull us away from community, from serving, from our small groups, all the things that keep us connected to the body of Christ, so that he can isolate us and then launch his attack.
Satan loves detached believers, unplugged from the life of the Body, isolated from God’s family, and unaccountable to spiritual leaders — because he knows they are defenseless and powerless against his tactics. – Rick Warren
James 5:19-20 says, “My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.” (MSG Bible)
Is there someone you know who has started pulling away from the body of believers? Maybe they used to be in church every Sunday, but lately, you only see them every once in a while? Or how about someone who used to serve, or were part of your small group but you’ve noticed them slowly starting to check out? Why don’t you be the one to reach out to them this week? Not to preach to them, but to let them know you miss seeing them and offer some encouragement to remind them their connection matters to you.
Lastly, maybe on the other end of this, and you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m actually the isolated one.” How about you take a step this week to get more plugged in. Join a group, sign up to serve, or even just invite some friends out for coffee. Bottom line – don’t do life alone. You’re life will be better and stronger for it AND you could be the strength and encouragement someone else needs.