Acts 25 – Throwing a Hail Caesar

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Today’s PassageActs 25

Hey, everyone. Just to pull back the curtain for a moment, it’s Saturday as I write this, and I’m at my grandmother’s in Virginia for Mother’s Day. And now, to replace the curtain: in today’s chapter, Paul’s Jewish opponents pursue their spurious case against him. But even under a new governor, Paul proves himself a match for their machinations with an appeal to Caesar himself.

As Felix turns over his governorship to Porcius Festus, the Jews appear to see an opening. They request that the governor send Paul back to Jerusalem to face their charges, but they plan to ambush and kill him on the way. At first Festus resists. He tells them to meet him in Caesarea before he leaves in order to present the charges to him, but at the hearing, Luke notes, “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?’” (9). Felix bought Paul some time by keeping him in protective custody for two years, but he ultimately neglected to give Paul justice, wanting to please the Jews. And like his predecessor, Festus finds himself torn between pleasing the Jewish authorities and serving Paul, a Roman citizen.

But now he’s put the ball in Paul’s court, and Paul intends to put the ball in Caesar’s.

It takes chutzpah to appeal to the Emperor. The Roman Empire contained far too many citizens for Caesar to oversee every grievance personally, so an appeal was definitely a long ball. But Paul puts up his own integrity as collateral, saying, “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” (11). Moreover, Paul’s appeal exposes Festus’ willingness to put inter-religion politics over justice. The subtext is that Festus knows Paul is innocent, a fact which he later openly admits (18-19), and that if he denies Paul’s appeal, it reflects poorly on his commitment to protecting the rights of Rome’s citizens. Festus has barely any choice.

As a result, God delivers Paul another unique opportunities. A handful of days after the hearing, King Herod Agrippa II happens to arrive in Caesarea, so Festus catches him up to speed on Paul’s situation. Agrippa, intrigued, simply says to Festus, “I also would like to hear the man myself” (22). The king gets what he wants when he wants it, so they waste no time setting up a meeting between Agrippa and Paul, and the very next day Festus presents Paul to Agrippa.

There are a few lessons to be gleaned from the events of the chapter. Know your rights, and if you have a valid case, don’t be afraid to throw the long ball. I can’t guarantee anything, but if it’s God’s will, you might just get the chance to speak before kings.

 

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