25 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.”
The greatest opportunities for spiritual growth and ministry often come out of dire circumstances. In Chapter 25, the stage is set for Paul to share his testimony in front of King Agrippa, a governor, and many dignitaries, mostly Gentile. Paul gets to preach the gospel to a captive audience in Chapter 26. Festus demonstrated just how little they knew about Jesus in his words, “They [The Jews] had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.”
This “opportunity” came after 2 years in a holding cell, while the previous governor bid his time. Some might not call this an opportunity at all. Instead, they would call it unfair, torturous, illegal, and wrong. Paul himself could have felt some of that. He is human after all, and I am sure he was discouraged from time to time. And yet, anytime Paul had the chance to speak about Jesus, he did.
I wonder if you and I would do the same. Were we put in jail unfairly, for 2 years, would we then come out and proclaim the goodness of Jesus Christ? I am not sure. I have a hard time not questioning God when I have an ordinary bad day!
Spend a few minutes today thinking about your endurance and faith in the midst of trying circumstances. What has been your history of reaction? Remember that it is always OK to question, doubt, and ask of God. But in the end, we pray our faith deepens and hope wins in times of trouble. May it be so with us.
Dear God, Give me the wisdom to take steps toward you and your plans for me. Give me insight when I need to change paths, and strength to endure hardships along the way. Share your vision with me and let me join you in your work. I offer all I am and all I have to you for your purposes. I know you are with me every step of the way, even if it is not the right step. Thank you for your daily grace and mercy, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.