A few days later King Agrippa arrived with his sister, Bernice, to pay their respects to Festus. During their stay of several days, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. “There is a prisoner here,” he told him, “whose case was left for me by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem, the leading priests and Jewish elders pressed charges against him and asked me to condemn him. I pointed out to them that Roman law does not convict people without a trial. They must be given an opportunity to confront their accusers and defend themselves.
When his accusers came here for the trial, I didn’t delay. I called the case the very next day and ordered Paul brought in. But the accusations made against him weren’t any of the crimes I expected. Instead, it was something about their religion and a dead man named Jesus, who Paul insists is alive. I was at a loss to know how to investigate these things, so I asked him whether he would be willing to stand trial on these charges in Jerusalem. But Paul appealed to have his case decided by the emperor. So I ordered that he be held in custody until I could arrange to send him to Caesar.”
“I’d like to hear the man myself,” Agrippa said. And Festus replied, “You will—tomorrow!”
So the next day Agrippa and Bernice arrived at the auditorium with great pomp, accompanied by military officers and prominent men of the city. Festus ordered that Paul be brought in. Then Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are here, this is the man whose death is demanded by all the Jews, both here and in Jerusalem. But in my opinion he has done nothing deserving death. However, since he appealed his case to the emperor, I have decided to send him to Rome. But what shall I write the emperor? For there is no clear charge against him. So I have brought him before all of you, and especially you, King Agrippa, so that after we examine him, I might have something to write. For it makes no sense to send a prisoner to the emperor without specifying the charges against him!”Acts 25:13-27
Just what was going on here. It seems this case of Paul’s was prompting a circus of activity with each step. Festus has made the decision that Paul’s case would be passed to Rome to be heard under Caesar, given the fact Paul was being accused of being an insurrectionist. So why involve Herod Agrippa II and his wife Bernice? On the one hand here was a new Roman Procurator who was honest and wanted to deal with the case lawfully. Why suddenly involve a person of such disreputable character as Agrippa? Festus’ reasoning is spelled out in verses 13-21. Festus gave a preamble of the case he was dealing with to Agrippa when he came. Agrippa and Bernice came only to pay their respects to the new Roman Procurator. However Festus by his own confession knew nothing about the background of Jewish religion and this case caught him by surprise. It was not about matters he thought would be the focus.
“Instead, it was something about their religion and a dead man named Jesus, who Paul insists is alive.”Acts 25:19
Festus’ own statement indicates he had given Paul the chance to be tried in Jerusalem but he had refused. So now the case was bound over for Paul to appear before Caesar in Rome. Paul had been held in custody until Festus could arrange to send him to Caesar. There would be a period of time before Paul could be sent to Rome. Roman officials would have to be contacted before the case could be transferred and in the meantime here is a perfect opportunity for Festus to get some input from the Jewish Tetrarch over Judea. On this occasion the “hearing” constituted a further investigation into a difficult case from Festus’ point of view before an invited audience – Agrippa and Bernice, some military officers and the prominent men of Caesarea. Notice how Agrippa and Bernice enter with great pomp and ceremony, which fits Agrippa’s character (well all of the Herods really).
In the first verse before us Luke gives us the private conversation that occurred between Festus and Agrippa. Now how did he gain that information? Paul was not there on that occasion so Paul could not have enlightened Luke as to what was said. Was Luke even there in Caesarea “with Paul”? There is no indication to suggest he was because the royal “we” stops after they reach Jerusalem (Acts 21:17). The “we” returns again in 27:1 when they set sail for (Rome) Italy. My guess is that Luke doesn’t include mention of himself in the proceedings he describes both in Jerusalem and then in Caesarea but he must have shadowed Paul in those places. Otherwise why is he there in Caesarea to be able to board the ship for Rome? But it is curious that Luke is able to give an account of the private conversation between Festus and Agrippa. I will pass that puzzle over to you. I confess to be at a loss to explain how Luke could do that.
Festus needed to learn more about this case so he could summarize it for Caesar in the case report he would have to write for Rome to go with the referral. He was at a loss as to what to write.
“But what shall I write the emperor? For there is no clear charge against him. So I have brought him before all of you, and especially you, King Agrippa, so that after we examine him, I might have something to write.For it makes no sense to send a prisoner to the emperor without specifying the charges against him!”Acts 25:26-27
Hence this carefully selected audience is an attempt to clarify the matters related to the case. However these selected people are not likely to be able to put their finger on the issues behind the scenes. There are now no so called eyewitnesses who followed Paul. The Roman commander was not present to tell of the plot and neither are any members of the Sanhedrin. But it was never likely any one from the Sanhedrin would give an honest account of what was going on.
Actually the only one able to give an honest, accurate account of the case against him was Paul himself. Interesting isn’t it that Luke in his telling of the story records Paul’s testimony three times. Luke was not present at the first telling of Paul’s testimony but it is likely that he was listening to the second telling. The question remains could Luke have wormed his way into the court room to hear the third time Paul’s testimony was given or not? The audience for this retelling of Paul’s testimony is the most distinguished one Paul has had. Notice how God keeps giving Paul increasing opportunities to tell his testimony. This account will be the one that is passed on to Caesar in Rome. If Luke wasn’t there in the courtroom, which is the most likely scenario, then at least Paul was under a rather lax custody which allowed his friends to visit him. In which case Luke could have gained the summary in the days that followed.
Now we are primed and ready to hear what Paul had to say in the third telling of his testimony.
The way you treat people when good times roll, determines who is there for you when Storm clouds gather!Brian Houston
Measure your wealth not by the things you have, but by the things you have for which you would not take money.Anon
If you’re not in the arena trying… I am not interested in your opinion.Anon
Church is not for your entertainment, as a consumer, but for you and others to find encouragement as a contributor! Come on, get involved.Rick Godwin