Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Day 39: October 21, 2009, Acts 25.1-27
Acts of the Apostles 25
13After several days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to welcome Festus. 14Since they were staying there several days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man here who was left in prison by Felix. 15When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me about him and asked for a sentence against him. 16I told them that it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over anyone before the accused had met the accusers face to face and had been given an opportunity to make a defense against the charge. 17So when they met here, I lost no time, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. 18When the accusers stood up, they did not charge him with any of the crimes that I was expecting. 19Instead they had certain points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20Since I was at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there on these charges. 21But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of his Imperial Majesty, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to the emperor.” 22Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” he said, “you will hear him.” 23So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then Festus gave the order and Paul was brought in. 24And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish community petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25But I found that he had done nothing deserving death; and when he appealed to his Imperial Majesty, I decided to send him. 26But I have nothing definite to write to our sovereign about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write— 27for it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.”
Commentary: Politics is corrupt. Felix wanted a bribe, Festus wants to ingratiate himself to the subjects he is going to rule over. Whether or not Paul is innocent or guilty has little effect on the cold hard reality of politics. It seems that Festus, seeing no use of Paul for himself is willing to hand him over to the Jewish leaders. We know that the year is about 60 AD, during the rule of Festus there will be much agitation by the Jewish Zealots who will agitate the townsfolk and kill anyone who is a Roman sympathizer. The elite of Jerusalem are still 'dealing' with the 'Jesus' problem as we'll learn from the historian Josephus that the high priest will have James the brother of Jesus put to death around 62 AD, so the fact that they are still concerned about Paul is most plausible. What will Paul do, will he go back to Jerusalem? NO! Why? Because the Gospel is to be preached to the whole world, the Gospel, personified in some ways now with Paul, must reach Rome.
What has been set up here may seem simple; but it is amazing. It will be lived out in the next chapter. Paul representing the Kingdom of Christ will have his say, first with Agrippa and then with the Emperor himself representing the empires of the world. Make no mistake, Luke in Acts understands that there can only be one king, one empire, on faith and he does not believe that Casesar is the legitimate holder of such.
This is still our tension as followers of Jesus: How can we be in the world and not of it? How can we love the world and not be seduced by it's sins. How can we serve the world and not fall victim to the powers that be?