24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”
32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Festus could not handle this discussion. He interrupted Paul’s speech, saying, “You are out of your mind… Your great learning is driving you insane.” To a practical Roman governor, this Jewish messianism was crazy talk.
Paul countered with a plea to King Agrippa, as one who was familiar with these thoughts. He said, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” It was a leading question to a king who knew the Scriptures and should accept Paul’s case about Jesus since it rests on the promises of the prophets. This challenge made Agrippa uncomfortable. He was sort of boxed in by Paul's question. Did he believe the prophets or not? He needed to craft an answer that protected his influence with the Jews and their religious leaders. So he said (probably with a smirk), “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” It was quick-witted and not really an answer.
Paul came back with a heartfelt, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” It was an honest statement, but you can just see Paul holding up his bound hands and a wry smile as he said, “except for these chains.” This exchange probably elicited smiles and laughter from the audience, which in Agrippa saw as a good place to end the meeting. Festus, Agrippa, Bernice and the dignitaries sitting with them left the room for a discussion about Paul’s fate. In the end, this group cannot see any real reason why Paul should be tried in Rome or anywhere else.
King Agrippa was like most Jews, and really most people. He could accept the words of the prophets who spoke of a coming Messiah. That was a safe belief that did not require any immediate changes in his actions or in his life. But he did not want to believe the prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus, as that was a dangerous belief that required personal changes. It would have meant a loss of influence, and perhaps a difficult road much like the one Paul was on. I think there are a lot of us in the same quandary as Agrippa. Maybe we actually believe Jesus was the messiah and he died for us and yada, yada. But we don’t ever really take it to heart. We fear where God will lead us if we let Jesus rule our lives completely. Because that is what the good news of Jesus calls for - a life sold out for God, willing to do whatever, and go wherever we are called. It may mean giving up a certain lifestyle, a group of friends, or particular habits. We are willing to say we believe in Jesus, but only as far as our comfort level will allow us to go.
Spend time today in reflection about how far you are willing to go for Jesus. Let these words from the song “Oceans” by Hillsong be your prayer today:
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.”
Holy Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior. 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.