by Philip Layton
When tried, Paul witnesses to Festus and King Agrippa
- When Paul spoke about the judgement to come, Felix became afraid and decided not to hear any more (v 25). Is this a subject that puts people off the gospel today?
- Should we avoid the subject for fear of causing offence?
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Going Deeper From 'Words of Life'
A few days later Festus receives a visit from Herod Agrippa II and his sister Bernice. This Agrippa is the son of Agrippa I, who was the grandson of Herod the Great. Any mention of the Herod dynasty in Scripture makes us hold our breath, for every Herod was violent and brutal.
Paul seems unfazed that his case is being heard before increasingly powerful rulers. In fact he delights in every opportunity to give his testimony and speak of Jesus. Each of the rulers examining Paul is ignorant of the theological issues at stake but has an agenda of political self-interest. These two factors combined actually serve to safeguard Paul from his Jewish opponents.
As Festus is a pagan and Agrippa and his sister are secular Jews, ‘well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies’ (26:3), Festus turns to them for help in settling his long-standing ‘Paul problem’. Agrippa must already know something of the case because he was the Roman curator of the temple at Jerusalem. Even if he was not on hand the day Paul was charged with defiling the temple (21:28), Agrippa must surely have heard about it.
Festus summarises Paul’s case. He tells how he inherited the prisoner from Felix. He fills in the gaps of what took place in his meeting in Jerusalem with the leaders of the Jews (25:2). He reports that the Sanhedrin had initially wanted to bring a guilty verdict against Paul without a trial (v 15). He states that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before the accused has had an opportunity to make his own defence.
Festus makes no mention of Paul’s Roman citizenship that guarantees his right to a fair trial. In fact he seems to have come to the conclusion that there is no case at all against Paul and the dispute is over a matter of religion, at the heart of which is the prisoner’s belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
To reflect on
If you were on trial for serving a risen Saviour, what compelling evidence would there be?
Beverly IvanyTags: Acts