About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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ch. 25:1-12    ch. 25:13-22    

he Trial Before Festus   (ch. 25:1 - 12)

Festus came from Rome to replace Felix.  Since being new to the area, he went to Jerusalem, the capital for the Jewish religion.  Caesarea was the capital of Judea as pronounced by Rome, but for centuries Jerusalem was the capital city for the Jews.  He therefore had to go to Jerusalem to get acquainted with his constituents.  Luke says that he did this on the third day.  It would have taken 2 days to get there, so Festus had only 1 day to rest after coming from Rome.  It sure didn't take long for Festus to get together with the Jewish leadership.  Making peace with the Jews was always the number one priority of Roman governors of Judea . 

He met with the chief priest and Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.  We note the words "chief priests"; priests being plural.  In reality there was only one chief priest.  Luke most likely means the chief priest, along with other subordinate priests.

In verse 3 Luke says that they "urgently requested" that Paul would be transferred over to them, as they wanted two years earlier.  The reason for this urgency was the same as it was two years ago.  They would ambush the Roman guards who transferred Paul and kill Paul before he even got to Jerusalem. Festus did not agree to this urgent request.  He suggested that they come to Caesarea to charge Paul there.  Of course this is not what the Jews wanted.  They had already tried this two years earlier.  Since then the high priest at the time was long gone.  The Jews were under their second high priest from Annaniasí time.

We need to remember that two whole long years had past since Paul was taken from Jerusalem to  Caesarea.  He had been in a type of house arrest now for these two years.  The Jews were just as anxious to get rid of Paul now as they were two years back.  They did not forget about Paul even though he had been out of commission for two years.  They were that angry with him.   

We learn in verse 3 that the Jews wanted to have Paul's trial in Jerusalem so some men could ambush him and kill him.  They attempted to do this two years back but their plan failed, so they wanted to try again.  Again, we see how the Jews hated Paul.  This reminds me that Jesus told His followers in John 16 that because the world hated Him the world would also hate them.  This was certainly true in Paul's case.  

In verse 6 Festus spent eight or ten days in Jerusalem and then left to go back to Caesarea with some of the Sanhedrin.  The next day Festus called Paul before him and heard the charges that the Jews had against Paul, all of which were unsubstantiated, as Luke says.

Now after two long years, Paul gets a chance to defend himself again in from of members of the Sanhedrin and Festus, the Roman appointed governor.

In verse 9 Paul says, "I have done nothing wrong against the Jews, or against the temple, or against Caesar".  Three things are mentioned by Paul.  These are the law, the temple, and Caesar.  We might be able to assume these 3 points were in direct relation to the charges against Paul.  As in the first hearing, 2 years earlier, the Jews charged Paul concerning speaking against their law and desecrating their temple.  Now they were most likely trying to suggest that Paul was also doing something against the laws of Caesar.  This third charge would have had more weight than the first 2.  Remember that Paul had been accused in times past of treason because he preached that Jesus was a King, which would be in direct opposition to Caesarís Kingship, depending on how you might interpret Paulís words that Jesus was a king.

In verse 9 Luke tells us that Festus wanted to do the Jews a favour, just as Felix did two years earlier by not releasing Paul.  The governor wanted to keep the Jews happy.  Happy Jews meant fewer problems for the governor.  It meant fewer problems with Caesar.  So Festus asked Paul if he was willing to go to Jerusalem to stand before him and the Sanhedrin there. 

Festus, like Felix was more interested in his own ambition and prosperity.  He did not want trouble with the Jews.  He could have, and should have, dismissed the case on lack of evidence.  But what he does is give into the Jews by asking Paul if he wanted to go back to Jerusalem to hear this case.  This must have made the Jews happy.  Festus appeared to be lining himself up on their side.  For Festus, this whole issue was a political issue, not an issue of the law. 

Paul refused.  He replied, "I am now standing before Caesarís court where I ought to be tried.  I have not done anything wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well.  If however I am guilty of doing anything deserving of death, I do not refuse to die.  But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them.  I appeal to Caesar"!

To date you might say that Paulís treatment by the Roman governors had been a gross injustice.  He had been held against his will for two long years, with no legal support for his detainment.  Both Felix and Festus were not interested in Roman justice.  They were interested in appeasing the Jews and their own position as governor. 

Now for the second time the Jews brought their charges against Paul without proof.  The case should have been dropped. Festus should not have asked Paul if he wanted to go to Jerusalem.  The case should have ended there. 

Paul knew that he had not committed any crime against Roman law.  If he had of, he was willing to take the punishment, even if it meant death. 

Paul stood on his rights as a Roman citizen and refused to go to Jerusalem .  The Sanhedrin was not a Roman court.  He was in a Roman court at this very moment and that court refused to hear his case, therefore he said that he would appeal to Rome.  Paul was certainly within his legal rights.  Some Christians, based on their idea of Christian ethics suggest that we should never stand up for ourselves, never use our civil rights.  We should be humble and take what is offered to us, even if it is unlawful.  This was not Paulís position.  He was a Roman, and he wanted to be treated as a Roman.  There is nothing wrong with standing up for your rights, whether in a court of law or with any individual or group who judges or criticizes you without cause.  Christians aren't called to be door mats or wimps  

It took Festus a few moments to go over the situation with his legal council, but realized that if this was Paulís request, he had no legal way to deny it. 

Note the words "I have done nothing wrong, as you yourself know" in verse 10.  Paul was pressing down on Festus at this point.  He was attempting to corner Festus in once sense of the word.  Festus knew Paul had done nothing wrong and he was simply ignoring his legal responsibility to judge between the Jews and Paul.  Paul was pointing this error out to Festus.   

In verse 11 we see that Paul was quite willing to suffer the consequences if he had broken the law.  A serious study of Romans 13:1 - 7 shows us how Paul thought about government and law.  He would submit as long as he didn't disobey Jesus in the process.  According to Romans 13:1, Paul taught that government was instituted by God to judge the wrong doer and protect the innocent.  So, if Paul had done wrong, he was willing to be judged and pay the penalty.  However, if he had not done wrong, he would certainly stand up for himself in the very court of law instituted by God to protect the innocent. 

At this point I should make one last comment on Paul's words in Romans 13:1.  Paul did not teach that any particular government acted on God's behalf.  He was simply saying that government in general, as an institution, was God's idea.  That being said, there are sufficient Scriptures that tell us that God causes leaders and nations both to rise and fall.  He puts men in leadership and he knocks men out of leadership.  God works behind the scene of nations and men to do His will.  He will put evil men in authority for accomplish His own purpose.  This is most clear when you study the book of Revelation and see that it is God who allows the anti-christ onto the world scene to accomplish His own will.  

In verse 12 we note that Festus conferred with his advisors, and then he agreed with Paul.  Paul could appeal to Caesar.  I suggest that Festus was very happy with this because he now did not have to deal with the situation.           

We see a couple of things throughout this process. One is the personal ambition of the Roman governors and the fact that they donít uphold the very law they stand for.

Another thing we see is that Paul always calls his opposition the Jews.
It is as if he is coming to the place in his thinking that he hardly considers himself a Jew anymore.  In his addresses he calls them brothers, but when
he refers to them he calls them the Jews.  This very term is a term of
separatio n.  He is making a distinction between him and his fellow countrymen, something that would have been very disheartening for Paul.  

 

Festus Consults King Agrippa  (ch. 25:13 - 22)

In verse 13 we see that King Agrippa paid a visit to Festus which lasted a few days.  This visit would have been due to Festusí new position as governor.  King Agrippa is Agrippa the second and was in charge of the area around the north of the Sea of Galilee.  He was part Jew and part Gentile, and so was his wife Bernice, who by the way, was actually his sister.  Agrippa was from the family of Herods, who were both Jew and Gentile.  He knew about Jewish law and he had heard about this new sect called Christians, as the Jews would have put it.     

Because Agrippa was the King and because he understood Jewish tradition, Festus consulted with him concerning Paul and what he should do with Paul.   He explained the charges that the Jews presented to him concerning Paul.

In verse 16 Festus tells Agrippa that he informed the Jews that he could not simply hand Paul over to them to be tried in Jerusalem.  That was not Roman custom.  A Roman needed a proper trial where he could defend himself.  The problem with what Festus tells Agrippa is that it does not seem to be the way that it really happened.  Festus seemed quite willing to send Paul to Jerusalem, but Paul refused.  To me, it seems that Festus was retelling the story to make himself look better than he really was.

In verse 17Festus tells Agrippa that he did not delay the proceedings, but the next day met with Paul and his accusers.  These facts are correct from what we see Luke has told us.

In verses 18 and 19 Festus relates to Agrippa that he was surprised about the charges the Jews laid against Paul, because they were all religious matters concerning their religion and also concerning some dead man who Paul claimed was alive.  You can well see that even in those days the thought of a man named Jesus who died and then rose from the dead was somewhat foreign to the rational mind.

Festus admits that he was at a loss to how to handle this situation, thus the reason for his conversation with Agrippa.  Agrippa himself was intrigued by the story so he asked to see Paul as well and to hear what he had to say.

So here we go again.  Paul has already defended himself before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem , then before Felix in Caesarea, then before Festus in Caesarea , and now before Agrippa. 

We should understand that according to Roman law Paul would have had to pay his expenses to go to Rome and be judged in Caesar's court.  Just where Paul got this money is unknown.  I suggest the believers helped Paul out in this matter although there are some that suggest that Paul had some of his own money at this point.  How much money Paul would need to make the trip to Rome is unknown to me, and, if he had this money is also unknown to me.   

 

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