An Apostle Appeals to Caesar

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Now, it’s the Apostle Paul before the Roman Governor Festus…

Now when Festus had come to the province, after three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. Then the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they petitioned him, asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem—while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him. But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly. “Therefore,” he said, “let those who have authority among you go down with me and accuse this man, to see if there is any fault in him” (Acts 25:1-5 NKJV).

Some believe that these were the same forty men who made originally made the plot to kill Paul earlier… If so, they clearly had not kept their oath to not eat or drink until they had carried forth their wicked deed.

And when he had remained among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day, sitting on the judgment seat, he commanded Paul to be brought. When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove, while he answered for himself, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all” (Acts 25:6-8 NKJV).

Festus calls for a new official trial. He could do this because Felix had never handed down a decision on Paul’s case. There was no shortage of Jews who still wanted to have their accusations against Paul loudly heard in the Roman court. No doubt, these were the same accusations they had registered some two years before. They charge that Paul had indeed violated Roman Law by instigating a new religion.

But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?” 10 So Paul said, “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. 11 For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, “You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!” (Acts 25:9-12 NKJV).

Festus knew that the Jews would not hesitate to bring false charges against him to Rome just the same as that were doing with Paul, and he feared them. So, he compromised. Paul, however, saw through the ploy, knowing that if he went to Jerusalem the Jews would find way to kill him. He proclaims his innocence of any of the charges against him. And he appeals to Caesar, knowing that the LORD has intentions for him to preach in Rome.

And after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus. 14 When they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying: “There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix, 15 about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, when I was in Jerusalem, asking for a judgment against him. 16 To them I answered, ‘It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him’ (Acts 25:13-16 NKJV).

The Jews show their cards. They don’t want a fair legal proceeding for Paul according to Roman law. They desired a “judgment against him.” They asked that Festus just accept their accusations at face value and pronounce the death sentence on Paul without any further investigation or trial. Sadly, this presents the pagan Romans having a better sense of justice than the Jews who had God’s Word and should therefore have known better.

Therefore when they had come together, without any delay, the next day I sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed, 19 but had some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. 20 And because I was uncertain of such questions, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. 21 But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar” (Acts 25:17-21 NKJV).

Festus was at a loss as to how to decide such questions. So, he naively thought to send Paul back to Jerusalem. But Paul exerted his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar.

Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I also would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” he said, “you shall hear him.” 23 So the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and had entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at Festus’ command Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said: “King Agrippa and all the men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he was not fit to live any longer. 25 But when I found that he had committed nothing deserving of death, and that he himself had appealed to Augustus, I decided to send him. 26 I have nothing certain to write to my lord concerning him. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him” (Acts 25:22-27 NKJV).

The Governor complains that he is going to send a man to Caesar for a trial, but he has no idea what to tell the Emperor he has done. He hopes King Agrippa, the second son of Herod Agrippa, being a Jew, might be able to define the charges a little better. The truth was, the Roman world found no fault in Paul just has the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate had found no fault in Jesus. Pagan Rome was completely lost in darkness and confusion regarding these matters.

Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him. Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.  But you have a custom of asking me to release one prisoner each year at Passover. Would you like me to release this ‘King of the Jews’?” But they shouted back, “No! Not this man. We want Barabbas!” (Barabbas was a revolutionary) (John 18:34-40 NLT).