Day 347 Acts 24-26

Day 347
Acts 24-26

Five days after Paul was confined in Caesarea, Ananais arrived along with several Jewish elders and a lawyer named Tertullus. As he argued the case against Paul before the Procurator, Tertullus flattered Felix and panned Paul as a worthless plague and a political subversive. He also falsely accused him of profaning the Temple by bringing Gentiles into it.

In his defense, Paul rose to pay his genuine respects to Felix. He then called upon the Governor to remember that less than a fortnight ago he too was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost and can verify for himself that Paul had not incited any riot. Instead, Paul proceeded to testify that he was a member of the Way, a sect that affirmed the central tenets of Judaism and hoped in the resurrection of the just and the unjust. He had come to Jerusalem to offer a gift to his kinsmen and to take a vow. Felix was well-informed about the Way but postponed any decision until the Tribune arrived. 
As it happened, Paul would spend at least the next two years of his life in the dungeon of Herod’s praetorium (A.D. 58-60). He was chained to a Roman soldier, but also enjoyed limited freedom. Aristarchus, one of the believers from Thessalonica, requested that he be imprisoned alongside Paul in order to care for him as he awaited trial.

Marcus Antonius Felix served as the Roman Procurator of Judea for approximately six years. He was known for accepting kickbacks and his judging his adversaries with severity. Married three times, his wife during Paul’s imprisonment was a Herodian princess named Drusilla. After an absence from Caesarea for some days, Felix returned with Drusilla who encouraged him to arrange a private meeting with Paul. Paul seized the opportunity to preach to Felix about faith in Christ, righteousness, self-control (Felix must have appreciated that!) and the coming judgment. He did not lack courage before the unprincipled Procurator. Felix had heard enough and sent Paul back to his chains. Felix called for him often, hoping Paul would offer him a bribe, but the Apostle only offered him hope in Christ.

Luke concisely stated, “When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus” (24:27). As it happened, in 59 A.D. Felix was recalled to Rome in disgrace. Felix was accused of using a dispute between the Jews and Syrians of Caesarea as a ruse to plunder and kill many of them. Before he returned to Rome, Felix could have let Paul go but he kept him in prison to curry favor with the Jews. When Festus was appointed in July, 59 A.D. he visited Jerusalem. The chief priests and leading men of the Jews urged Festus to release Paul so that he could come under their authority in Jerusalem. In fact, they were hoping to set an ambush against Paul and kill him. Their plans were spoiled though because he wanted to interrogate Paul himself in Caesarea. Some ten days later, Festus took his seat on the Tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought in before him. Paul briefly argued in his own defense that he was neither a turncoat to Judaism or a traitor to Rome. Festus knew Paul’s case was above his pay grade and offered him to go to Jerusalem. Paul knew that if he returned to Jerusalem he would not survive. Instead, he made an appeal to appear before Emperor Nero, the inalienable right of a Roman citizen. After a brief recess, Festus delivered his decision and ruled on Paul’s behalf that he go before Caesar.

Paul’s last stand on Jewish soil took place when King Agrippa II made a surprise visit to Caesarea with his sister Bernice, with whom he shared an incestuous relationship (Bernice would later become the mistress of Emperor Titus). Festus took advantage of Agrippa’s presence by telling him about Paul, an outstanding prisoner from the previous 
administration. He hoped Agrippa would help him formulate something definite to compose to Nero. After Agrippa and Bernice entered the great hall the next day, amid great pomp and ceremony, Festus opened the proceedings and Agrippa permitted him to speak. Instead of defending himself, Paul took the opportunity to share the gospel with the king. He shared the story of Jesus appearing to him on the Damascus Road (the third time the story is told in Acts). He declared to the king that he had not been disobedient to God’s call upon his life. He added that the reason the Jews were opposing him is because he proclaimed that the Christ must suffer and rise again.

Festus, forgetting decorum, accused Paul of being out of his mind. Agrippa questioned Paul about whether he thought he could persuade him to become a Christian in such a short amount of time. The king then convened a council with Festus, Bernice and a few other officials and acknowledged that Paul had done nothing worthy of death or prison. Agrippa turned to Festus and said, “This man could have been set free if he had not appeal to Caesar.” Paul, on the other hand, got his long-hoped for trip to Rome, not as a missionary but as a prisoner of the Empire.

Dear Lord, when we seek to share the gospel help us also to remember that there is great power in our own stories about how Jesus changed our lives. Help us to faithfully contend for the gospel and tell others what Jesus has done for us. In His Name, we pray, Amen.

Paul Before Felix at Caesarea – And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul. And when he had…