Reading through the Bible together
This chapter prepares us for the next, when Paul spoke to Festus, the new governor. The very week of his arrival, Festus dealt with Paul’s case. Paul had been kept in custody for two years. Once Festus realized something wasn’t right with the Jews’ insistence that Paul be tried in Jerusalem, he told them that Paul would stay in Caesarea, and if they wanted to press charges, they could come to him there.
The charges were false, Festus saw through them and the vehement hatred the Jews had for Paul. He tested a compromise: He asked Paul if he would be willing to be tried by the Sanhedrin? Paul knew that this would be a sentence of death—they had plotted to kill him before when he was in Jerusalem.
So, as a Roman citizen, Paul appealed to Caesar. If a Roman citizen felt he was not getting justice in a provincial court, he could appeal to the Emperor himself to hear his case. Festus accepted Paul’s decision. That must have deeply frustrated Paul’s enemies. They couldn’t understand why they could not get this man killed. They failed in Jerusalem and they failed before the previous governor. Now, they had failed again. Obviously, God still had work for Paul to do.
When King Agrippa II—king of Galilee and Perea—came to pay his respects to this new governor, Festus told him about Paul’s case. Sending Paul to Rome was not that simple: the charges against a Roman citizen had to be accompanied with clearly written letter outlining the charges, and Festus was at a loss with what to charge Paul! Agrippa became interested in hearing Paul himself, who had become famous by his deeds in Christ’s name, and had created for himself an intense hatred among his Jewish enemies.
Look at the contrasts! In comes the king, dressed in purple, and his wife Bernice—with all the pomp and circumstance of royal introductions and attendants. Next comes Festus, dressed in the scarlet color of the governor, and the retinue of city commanders following behind him, all in their shiny brass. Last comes Paul, an unassuming follower of Christ, in chains. All the attention was on this last man.
Ron E. M. Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and Theology
Seminary, Andrews University