We have seen Paul drug before the Roman Governor Felix on trumped up charges. We have seen Paul held illegally and irregularly in the Governor’s prison, simply because he would not pay a bride. And now today we are going to see Felix’s replacement, a name named Porcius Festus, and more importantly we are going to Paul come before Governor Porcius Festus.
Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. 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. Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.”—25:1-5
We are told from ancient sources that Felix was recalled to Rome with charges brought against him by the Jewish leadership. Porcius Festus replaced Felix around AD 59. Festus is thought to have been far more conscientious than Felix, but he inherited a mess of which Paul’s case was only a part. Willing to grant a favor to the Jewish leadership, Festus reopened Paul’s case. It is notable that previously the leadership was only complicit in an assassination attempt of Paul, while now they were plotting it themselves. Festus wisely invited the leadership to make their accusations in Caesarea, a decision that ensured Paul’s safety.
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. 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.
Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”
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?”
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. 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!”
After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”—25:6-12
In Caesarea, the Jewish leaders continued to make indefensible charges. Paul denied them all. Festus’s request of Paul to change the venue was an overt favor to the Jews. Paul’s appeal to Caesar was his right as a Roman citizen (though somewhat irregular—but, then again, this “trial” was irregular as well). At this time Nero was still under the influence of the statesman Seneca. Paul had much more hope for justice in Rome than in Caesarea. In fact, Paul had known that Christ wanted him in Rome for years. And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as Festus consults with King Agrippa about Paul.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Job 23-27, 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11, Psalm 41:1-13 and Proverbs 22:5-6
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