Read Acts 25
Paul’s Trial Before Festus
1 Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, 2 where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. 3 They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.”
6 After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. 7 When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.
8 Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”
9 Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?”
10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving 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!”
12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”
Festus Consults King Agrippa
13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. 14 Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: “There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.
16 “I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. 17 When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. 20 I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21 But when Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.”
22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.”
He replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.”
Paul Before Agrippa
23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said: “King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. 27 For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.”
This chapter continues on with the unfolding events of Paul’s trial. There are many people standing against him and shouting lies about him. Should their lies be believed by those in authority, Paul would most certainly die. However, despite these circumstances, Paul seems shockingly calm. Rather than feeling the need to defend himself, he is cool and collected as he stands before Festus. This remarkable courage comes from a life that was dedicated to serving something other than man’s opinion. Paul is used to opposition, but this opposition doesn’t rattle him because he knows that his purpose is to serve God, not man.
How many of us get this backwards? Instead of meditating on our internal worth before God, we strive to be approved by those around us. We’ll conform to the patterns of this world in order to feel the support of others. But Paul presents us with a different way of living. We don’t have to twist our likeness into something of which the world will approve. This chapter is tremendous evidence of the power of Christ’s payment on the cross for us. We can stand before the judging world and know that we are innocent before the only court that matters. May we be reminded today that we are free and forgiven because of what God has done for us.
What do you notice about Festus in this passage? Why does he seem so confused by this situation?
Why do you think Paul was able to stand before the court with such confidence?
What does it look like for you when you try to live for the approval of people? How can you find freedom from that desire?
Did You Know?
Every Roman citizen had a right to appeal to Caesar. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Caesar would hear the case, but that the citizen’s case would be tried by the highest courts in the land. Festus saw Paul’s appeal as a way to send him out of the country and thus pacify the Jews. Paul wanted to go to Rome to preach the gospel and knew his appeal would help him do so.