327 - Paul’s Trial Before Festus
NOVEMBER 23 - Nº 327 Acts 24:27 – 25:12
Felix, the Roman governor of Judea, was already very unpopular with the Jews (see #326 - November 22). He knew that if he set Paul free, they would revolt against his leadership. Such a disturbance would cause Caesar to think he was a weak ruler and remove him from his position. So, although he found no truth in the allegations against Paul, he kept him in prison in Caesarea for two years. Finally, Caesar decided to replace Felix due to other accusations made against him. Festus took over as the new governor. Three days after arriving in Judea, Festus traveled from Caesarea to Jerusalem. He was a kinder and wiser ruler than his predecessor. He realized how important Jerusalem was to the Jews, so he wanted to meet with the Jewish leaders there as soon as he could. When they got together, the first thing the leaders did was present their charges against Paul. They asked Festus to transfer Paul back to Jerusalem so they could question him. Once again, they were plotting to ambush the military entourage and assassinate Paul before he could arrive. Festus, who had not even met Paul yet, told them they should send some of their leaders back to Caesarea and make their charges against Paul there. After spending eight to ten days in Jerusalem, Festus headed back to Caesarea. The day after he arrived, he reopened Paul’s case and set up a new trial. He wanted to resolve this volatile matter immediately. Once again, Paul stood on trial before a Gentile ruler facing accusations from the Jewish leaders. Once again, his life was in jeopardy if he was found guilty. Once again, the Jewish leaders presented serious charges against him. Once again, they did not have any evidence to back them up. And once again, Paul insisted that he had done nothing wrong against the Jewish Law, the Temple, or Caesar. Festus was in a bind. He wanted the Jewish leaders to accept him as their new governor, but he also felt that Paul was innocent. As a compromise, he asked Paul to return to Jerusalem and stand trial one more time on the same charges. Because Paul was a Roman citizen, his trial could not be moved without his permission. Paul knew this. He also knew that he had no chance of receiving a fair trial in Jerusalem. So, he replied, “I am now standing before Caesar’s court. This is where I ought to be tried. I have done nothing wrong as you know very well. If I was guilty of something that deserved the death penalty, I would not refuse to die. But these charges are not true, and no one has the right to turn me over to the people who are accusing me. Therefore, I appeal to Caesar.” Since no decision had been reached in the governor’s court, Paul had the right as a Roman citizen to make this appeal and stand trial before Caesar. Festus consulted with his own lawyers. They advised him to grant Paul’s request. “You have appealed to Caesar. So, to Caesar you will go!” Festus declared, and the court was adjourned. Paul was finally going to Rome—a place where he had longed to share the Gospel for many years. But instead of going as a missionary, he was going as a prisoner!
Regardless of how the odds are stacked against us, God is still in control! If we are willing to walk with Him, God will take us where He wants us to be. God wanted Paul in Rome. But there were many people—like Felix and Festus—who needed to hear the Gospel before he got there. So, on the way, God led Paul on a winding route that intersected with their lives.