PAUL IS STANDING BEFORE THE NEW GOVERNOR OF JUDEA, FESTUS, WHO HAS BEEN JOINED BY KING AGRIPPA AND HIS SISTER BERNICE. THIS IS NOT A FORMAL TRIAL, PER'SE. IT IS MORE AN INFORMATIONAL GATHERING - IT IS MEETING BECAUSE AFTER HEARING PAUL’S ACCUSERS, AND THEN HEARING FROM PAUL, GOVERNOR FESTUS IS AT AS MUCH A LOSS AS WAS HIS PREDECESSOR FELIX TO FIND ANY CRIME THAT PAUL HAD COMMITTED. IT MUST BE UNDERSTOOD, HOWEVER, THAT NEITHER FELIX NOR FESTUS HAD ANY REAL INTEREST IN CRIMES PAUL MIGHT HAVE DONE AGAINST JEWISH ORAL LAWS. RATHER THEIR CONCERNS WERE OVER WHETHER PAUL MIGHT HAVE VIOLATED ANY ROMAN LAWS, OR WAS A THREAT TO ROMAN RULE, AND THE IMPLICATION OF THE HIGH PRIEST (AS HEAD OF THE SANHEDRIN) WAS THAT PAUL WAS A REBEL WHO WAS DISTURBING A PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE BETWEEN THE JEWS AND THE ROMANS THAT THE ROMANS GREATLY VALUED. IT WAS CLEAR THAT DUE TO THE LACK OF WITNESSES TO THAT CHARGE, AND DUE TO PAUL’S BEHAVIOUR AND HIS OUTRIGHT DENIAL OF BEING A TROUBLEMAKER, THAT HE WAS NOT PROVOKING A JEWISH REBELLION. HOWEVER BECAUSE PAUL WAS A ROMAN CITIZEN, AND BECAUSE EVEN BEFORE THE VERDICT WAS HANDED DOWN HE HAD APPEALED TO CAESAR, FELIX AND FESTUS’S HANDS WERE TIED. PAUL WAS GOING TO ROME NO MATTER THE OUTCOME.
1Festus became Governor, and three days later he went from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2The Chief Priests and the important Jewish leaders made charges against Paul before Festus. 3They asked Festus to do them a favour. They wanted him to send Paul back to Jerusalem because they had a plan to kill Paul on the way. 4But Festus answered, “No, Paul will be kept in Caesarea. I'll be going there soon myself, 5and your leaders can go with me. If this man has really done anything wrong, they can accuse him there.”
IT IS FASCINATING THAT THIS DETERMINATION TO KILL PAUL CONTINUED ON FOR SO LONG - BUT SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS HAS NO LIMITS ON TIME OR EXTENT. WE KNOW FROM OTHER DOCUMENTS THAT JERUSALEM WAS NEARLY IN A STATE OF ANARCHY AT THIS TIME AS THE ZEALOTS AND THE SICARRI WERE RUNNING RAMPANT, MURDERING JEWS WHO DIDN’T MEET THEIR UNWRITTEN LITMUS TEST FOR PROPER JEWISH LOYALTY AND BEHAVIOR. IT WAS THE DEMANDS OF THE EXTREMIST ZEALOTS AND SICARRI THAT KEPT THIS ISSUE ALIVE (TO DEAL WITH PAUL) BECAUSE SINCE PAUL’S EXPERIENCE WITH YAHUSHA (20 YEARS EARLIER) A NUMBER OF HIGH PRIESTS HAD COME AND GONE. SO ANYONE PAUL HAD EVER OFFENDED WAS NO LONGER IN OFFICE ... BUT THE ZEALOTS WERE STILL FUMING!
6Festus stayed in Jerusalem another eight or ten days and then went back to Caesarea. The next day Festus told the soldiers to bring Paul before him. Festus was seated on the Judgment Seat. 7Paul came into the room, and the Jews who had come from Jerusalem stood around him. They made many serious charges against him, but they could not prove anything. 8Paul defended himself, saying, “I’ve done nothing wrong against the Jewish Law, against the Temple, or against Caesar.”
9But Festus wanted to please the Jews, so he asked Paul, “Do you want to go to Jerusalem for me to judge you there on these charges?” 10Paul said, “Well I’m standing at Caesar’s Judgment Seat now, so this is where I should be judged. I’ve done nothing wrong to the Jews, and you know it. 11If I have done something wrong and the Law says I must die, then I agree that I should die. I don’t ask to be delivered from death. But if these charges aren’t true, then no one can hand me over to these people. So No, I want to stay here and have Caesar hear my case please!”
12Festus talked about this with his Advisors, then he said, “You have asked to see Caesar, so you will go to Caesar!”
ESSENTIALLY FESTUS WAS WILLING, ON THE SPOT, TO DISMISS ANY CHARGES AGAINST PAUL CONCERNING VIOLATING ROMAN LAW BY CAUSING DISTURBANCES (THAT IS HOW ANXIOUS HE WAS TO RID HIMSELF OF THIS PROBLEM). BUT PAUL WAS HAVING NONE OF IT. YAHUSHA HAD TOLD HIM THAT HE WAS TO GO TO ROME, AND THAT HE WOULD GO BEFORE THE EMPEROR, AND THIS WAS HIS TICKET TO GET THERE. BESIDES, PAUL FULLY KNEW HE’D NEVER MAKE IT TO JERUSALEM ALIVE IF HE WAS TURNED OVER TO THE JEWS. SO HE APPEALED TO CAESAR - GAME OVER! IT WAS NOW OUT OF FESTUS’S HANDS. IN A MORE FEW VERSES WE’LL HEAR THE PERPLEXED FESTUS WONDER TO KING AGRIPPA II WHY IN THE WORLD PAUL WOULD APPEAL TO CAESAR SINCE FESTUS WAS READY TO DECLARE HIM INNOCENT OF ANY CHARGES AGAINST ROME.
APPEAL WHAT? PAUL HAD WON HIS CASE FROM FESTUS’S VIEWPOINT. IN TRUTH PAUL RISKED MORE PRISON TIME NOW THAN HE HAD FACED WITH FELIX. FELIX DIDN’T FORMALLY ACQUIT HIM, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND HE HAD NO GROUNDS TO CONVICT HIM. YET HE STILL HAD TO FIND A WAY TO SETTLE DOWN THE JEWISH LEADERSHIP. SO FELIX JUST DIDN’T DO ANYTHING AND PAUL LANGUISHED IN JAIL FOR 2 YEARS. FESTUS COULD HAVE TAKEN A CUE FROM FELIX AND DONE THE SAME. THIS WOULD HAVE AT LEAST PARTIALLY APPEASED THE JEWS, AND IT WOULD HAVE SAVED HIM THE EMBARRASSMENT OF SENDING PAUL TO THE EMPEROR, HAVING NO IDEA WHAT THE CHARGES AGAINST HIM OUGHT TO BE OR WHAT HE SHOULD TELL THE EMPEROR ARE THE CIRCUMSTANCES. HERE’S THE RUB: THE EMPEROR AT THIS TIME WAS THE UNSTABLE AND DANGEROUS NERO.
13A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to visit Festus.
CERTAINLY AGRIPPA’S VISIT TO FESTUS WAS TO SHOW HIS APPROVAL OF FESTUS’S COMMISSION AS GOVERNOR AND TO RENEW HIS VOW OF LOYALTY TO ROME. BUT, IN YAHUSHA’S PROVIDENCE, IT WOULD ALSO AFFORD PAUL AN OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK THE GOSPEL TO A KING AND QUEEN: AGRIPPA AND BERNICE. A JEWISH KING AND QUEEN NO LESS.
14They stayed there many days, and Festus told the King about Paul’s case. Festus said, “There is a man that Felix left in prison. 15When I went to Jerusalem, the Chief Priests and the older Jewish leaders there made charges against him. They wanted me to order his death. 16But I told them, ‘When a man is accused of doing something wrong, Romans don’t hand him over for others to judge. First, he must face the people accusing him. And then he must be allowed to defend himself against their charges.’ 17So when these Jews came here for the trial, I didn’t waste time. The next day I sat on the Judgment Seat and ordered Paul to be brought in. 18The Jews stood up and accused him, but they did not accuse him of the kind of crimes I thought they would. 19Their charges were all about their own worship practices and about a man named YAHUSHA Who had died, but Paul said that He is still alive. 20I didn’t have any clue how to judge these matters. So I asked Paul, ‘Do you want to go to Jerusalem and be judged there?’ 21But Paul asked to be kept in Caesarea. He wants a decision from the Emperor. So I ordered that he be held until I could send him to Caesar in Rome.”
22Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man too.”
Festus said, “Tomorrow you can hear him.”
WHATEVER HATRED THE JEWS EXHIBITED FOR ROME EXISTED MOSTLY IN JUDEA, AND CENTERED PRIMARILY IN JERUSALEM; IT WAS LESS SO IN THE GALILEE, AND NEARLY NOT AT ALL IN THE DIASPORA. THIS IS BECAUSE IN JUDEA THE ROMANS WERE SEEN AS UNWANTED, UNCLEAN OCCUPIERS OF JEWISH LAND; BUT THE ROMANS HAD A LESSER PRESENCE IN THE GALILEE SO THERE WERE FEWER RUN-INS BETWEEN ROMANS AND JEWS THERE. DIASPORA JEWS HAD FOR GENERATIONS CHOSEN TO LIVE AMONG THE ROMANS SO GENERALLY THERE WERE FEW PROBLEMS. PAUL, AS A PRODUCT OF THE DIASPORA, DOESN’T SEEM TO DISPLAY ANY PARTICULAR DISLIKE OR PREJUDICE AGAINST THE ROMANS, AND SO HIS COMFORT LEVEL WITH GENTILES IS EVIDENT IN THE BOOK OF ACTS AND IN ALL OF HIS EPISTLES. YAHUSHA HAD CERTAINLY COMMISSIONED THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB OF TAKING THE GOSPEL TO THE GENTILE WORLD OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.
SO WHAT IS REALLY HAPPENING WITH AGRIPPA AND BERNICE’S INVOLVEMENT WITH THE PAUL AFFAIR HAS TO DO WITH FESTUS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO PUT IN HIS REPORT TO NERO AS THE REASON FOR PAUL’S INCARCERATION AND SUBSEQUENT APPEAL. AND SINCE AGRIPPA AND BERNICE WERE JEWS AND FAMILIAR WITH JEWISH WAYS, FESTUS’S FERVENT HOPE WAS THAT THEY COULD HELP TO UNTANGLE THIS PERPLEXING SITUATION THAT HE FOUND HIMSELF IN.
25But when I judged him, I didn’t find him guilty of any crime worthy of death. But he’s asked to be judged by Caesar himself, so I decided to send him to Rome. 26However, I don’t really know what to tell Caesar that this man has done wrong. So I’ve brought him before all of you, especially you, King Agrippa. I hope that you can question him and give me something to write to Caesar. 27I think it ’s ridiculous to send a prisoner to Caesar without making some charges against him.”
FROM FESTUS’S PERSPECTIVE HE WAS SUSPICIOUS OF THE HIGH PRIEST’S MOTIVES FOR WANTING PAUL BROUGHT BACK TO JERUSALEM FOR TRIAL AND SO CHARACTERIZES THE HIGH PRIEST’S REQUEST AS ASKING FOR A FAVOR. HIS SUSPICION WAS ONLY HEIGHTENED WHEN THE HIGH PRIEST TOLD FESTUS OF THE
CHARGES AGAINST SHA’UL THAT TO FESTUS’S MIND AMOUNTED TO SOME MINOR JEWISH RELIGIOUS DISAGREEMENTS. THE HEAVY IMPLICATION OF IT BEING A FAVOR TO GIVE PAUL OVER TO THE HIGH PRIEST IS THAT THERE IS A HIDDEN AGENDA AND THAT THERE IS NO GOOD OR COMPELLING REASON FOR THE REQUEST OF A CHANGE OF VENUE; SO FESTUS DENIED IT. THE FURTHER IMPLICATION IS THAT WHILE FESTUS SMELLED A RAT, HE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT IT WAS. HE WASN’T AT ALL AWARE THAT THE HIGH PRIEST, NO DOUBT EGGED ON BY THE ZEALOTS AND THE SICARRI, INTENDED TO ASSASSINATE PAUL WELL BEFORE HE ARRIVED BACK IN JERUSALEM. FESTUS ALSO REVEALS TO AGRIPPA THAT PAUL HAD APPEALED TO CAESAR AND HE INTENDED TO HONOR IT. THIS TELLS AGRIPPA THAT NOTHING THAT GOES ON HERE IS GOING TO CHANGE THE TRAJECTORY OF WHERE THIS IS HEADED: PAUL IS GOING TO ROME ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.
23The next day Agrippa and Bernice came to the meeting with great show, acting like very important people. They entered the room with Military Leaders and important men of the city. Festus ordered the soldiers to bring Paul in. 24Festus said, “King Agrippa and all of you gathered here with us, you see this man. All the Jewish people, here and in Jerusalem, have complained to me about him. When they complain about him, they shout that he should be killed.
1Agrippa said to Paul, “You may now speak to defend yourself.” Paul raised his hand to get their attention and began to speak. 2He said, “King Agrippa, I feel fortunate that I can stand here before you today and answer all the charges these Jews have made against me. 3I am very happy to talk to you, because you know so much about all the Jewish customs and the things the Jews argue about. So please listen to me patiently.
4All the Jews know about my whole life. They know the way I lived from the beginning in my own country and later in Jerusalem. 5These Jews have known me for a long time. If they want to, they can tell you that I was a good Pharisee of the strictest sect of observance and lifestyle. 6And now I’m on trial because I have expectation and hope for the promise that Alahim made to our fathers. 7This is the promise that all the twelve tribes of our people hope to receive. For this hope the Jews serve YAHUAH day and night. My King, the Jews have accused me because I hope for this same promise. 8Why do you people think it is impossible for YAHUAH to raise people from the dead?
9I used to think that I should do everything I could against YAHUSHA from Nazareth. 10And that’s what I did, beginning in Jerusalem. The Chief Priests gave me the authority to put many of YAHUAH’S people in jail. And when they were being killed, I agreed that it was a good thing. 11I visited all the Synagogues and punished them, trying to make them curse their deliverer YAHUSHA. My anger against these people was so strong that I went to other cities to find them and punish them.
12One time the Chief Priests gave me permission and the authority to go to the city of Damascus. 13On the way there, at noon, I saw a light from Heaven, brighter than the sun. It shined all around me and those traveling with me. 14We all fell to the ground. Then I heard a voice talking to me in Hebrew, saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? You’re only hurting yourself by fighting me, isn’t it hard kicking against My goads?’
15I said, ‘Who are you, Master?’ He said, ‘I‘m YAHUSHA. I’m the one you’re persecuting. 16Stand up! I have chosen you to be my servant. You will tell people about me—what you have seen today and what I will show you. This is why I have come to you. 17I will keep you safe from your own people and from the gentile people, the ones I’m actually sending you to. 18You will make them able to understand the truth. They will turn away from darkness to the light. They will turn away from the power of Satan, and they will turn to Me. Then their sins can be forgiven, and they can be given a place among My people—those who have been made set-apart by believing in Me.’”
IN A SENTENCE THAT WAS SURE TO RAISE THE EYEBROWS OF HIS ARISTOCRATIC AUDIENCE, PAUL SAYS THAT YAHUSHA WAS SENDING HIM TO OPEN PEOPLES’ EYES IN ORDER THAT THEY MIGHT TURN FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT. AND THAT THE PEOPLE HE WAS BEING SENT TO WERE BOTH JEWS AND GENTILES. AND THAT THOSE PEOPLE, JEWS AND GENTILES, WHO PUT THEIR TRUST IN THE VERY SAME PERSON WHO HAD INTERRUPTED PAUL’S JOURNEY OF PERSECUTION WOULD RECEIVE FORGIVENESS OF SINS AND BECOME A MEMBER IN THE COMMUNITY OF THOSE WHOM YAHUSHA SET APART FOR HOLINESS. SO NOW PAUL HAS CROSSED A LINE; IT IS ONE THING TO MORE OR LESS INSTRUCT AGRIPPA AND BERNICE WHO,
BECAUSE OF THEIR JEWISHNESS, UNDERSTOOD THAT PAUL WAS SPEAKING AS A RABBI FROM A JEWISH CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS STANDPOINT. BUT WHEN PAUL SAID THAT THIS TRUST IN YAHUSHA WAS ALSO NECESSARY FOR GENTILES TO HAVE THEIR SINS FORGIVEN, THIS WAS A DIRECT ASSAULT ON FESTUS AND HIS PAGAN DEITIES.
19Paul continued speaking: “King Agrippa, after I had this vision from Heaven, I obeyed it. 20I began telling people to change their hearts and lives and turn back to YAHUAH. And I told them to do what would show that they had really changed. I went first to people in Damascus. Then I went to Jerusalem and to every part of Judea and told the people there. I also went to the gentiules 21This is why the Jews grabbed me and were trying to kill me at the Temple. 22But YAHUSHA helped me, and He is still helping me today. With YAHUSHA’S help I am standing here today and telling all people what I've seen. But I'm saying nothing new, only what Moses and the prophets said would happen. 23They said that the Messiah would die and be the first to rise from the dead. They said that He would bring the light of YAHUAH’S deliverance of truth to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
24While Paul was still defending himself, Festus shouted, “Paul, you’re out of your damn mind! Too much reading and study has made you crazy.”
25Paul said, “Most Honorable Festus, I'm not crazy. What I’m saying is true. It all makes perfect sense. 26King Agrippa knows about all this, and I can speak freely to him. I know that he has heard about these things, because they happened where everyone could see them. 27King Agrippa, do you believe what the prophets wrote? I know you believe!”
28King Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a ‘Christianos’ so easily?” [CRETAN, UNEDUCATED FOOL, IDIOT - A TERM OF SCORN]
29Paul said, “It is not important if it is easy or if it is hard. I pray to YAHUSHA that not only you but that everyone listening to me today could be delivered and have this experience just like me - except for these chains I still have!”
30King Agrippa, Governor Festus, Bernice, and all the people sitting with them stood up 31and left the room. They were talking to each other. They said ...
“This man has done nothing worthy of being put to death or even put in jail.” 32And Agrippa said to Festus, “We could let him go free, but he has asked to see Caesar.”
BUT UNDERSTANDING THAT ESSENTIALLY AGRIPPA WAS IN ATTENDANCE BECAUSE OF HIS JEWISHNESS, PAUL ADDRESSES HIM BY NAME AND SAYS THAT HE DID NOT DISOBEY THIS VISION FROM HEAVEN. SO HE WENT ON TO DAMASCUS, THEN BACK TO JERUSALEM, AND THEN JOURNEYED THROUGHOUT THE PROVINCE OF JUDEA PROCLAIMING THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT FORGIVENESS OF SINS WHEREVER HE WENT. BUT EVEN MORE THAT PEOPLE’S LIVES NEED TO REFLECT THAT THEY HAD TURNED FROM THEIR SINS AND REPENTED.
REPENTANCE IS ALWAYS PRESENTED, IN ALL SCRIPTURE, AS THE FIRST STEP TO FORGIVENESS OF SINS WHETHER THAT SIN WAS ATONED FOR BY THE BLOOD OF ANIMALS ON THE TEMPLE ALTAR, OR BY BELIEF IN THE BLOOD THAT YAHUSHA SPILLED AT CALVARY. LET ME REPEAT THAT: THE WRITERS OF THE SET-APART SCRIPTURES KNOW NOTHING OF A KIND OF FORGIVENESS THAT OCCURS WITHOUT FIRST SINCERELY REPENTING AND TURNING.
NO ONR CAN ACHIEVE FORGIVENESS OF SINS BY MERELY PROFESSING YAHUSHA, AND MAYBE BY ATTENDING FELLOWSHIP FROM TIME TO TIME, BUT THEY CAN ALSO GO RIGHT ON LIVING AS BEFORE WITH ONLY LIP SERVICE PAID TO ACTUAL REPENTANCE.
CONFESSING THAT ONE HAS SINNED OR IS SINNING OR IS CONTEMPLATING COMMITTING A SIN, IS NOT REPENTANCE (ALTHOUGH CONFESSION IS A GOOD AND NEEDED FIRST STEP). NOTICE HOW JOHN THE IMMERSER PREACHED ONE THING ONLY, AND IMMERSED FOR ONE THING ONLY: REPENTANCE. HE DID NOT IMMERSE FOR FORGIVENESS OF SINS; BUT ONLY FOR REPENTANCE TO PREPARE FOR FORGIVENESS OF SINS.
THIS NATURALLY FOLLOWED THE LAW OF MOSES IN ITS PRINCIPLES. BEFORE PRESENTING ONE’S SACRIFICE OF ATONEMENT AT THE TEMPLE ALTAR, FIRST THAT PERSON HAD TO HAVE REPENTED AND GAINED A CONTRITE HEART. IF THEY DIDN’T, THEIR SACRIFICE HAD NO EFFECT. IT IS THE SAME FOR THE BRIDE TODAY.
JAMES YAHUSHA’S BROTHER AND A SENIOR LEADER OF THE WAY UNTIL HIS MURDER BY THE HIGH PRIEST IN 62 A.D., HAD STRONG WORDS FOR THOSE IN HIS TIME WHO THOUGHT BELIEF AND. BEHAVIOR WERE NOT CONNECTED. AND THESE STRONG WORDS ARE THERE AS A WARNING FOR US AS WELL.
DON'T DECEIVE YOURSELVES BY ONLY HEARING WHAT THE WORD SAYS, BUT DO IT! FOR WHOEVER HEARS THE WORD BUT DOESN'T DO WHAT IT SAYS IS LIKE SOMEONE WHO LOOKS AT HIS FACE IN A MIRROR, WHO LOOKS AT HIMSELF, GOES AWAY AND IMMEDIATELY FORGETS WHAT HE LOOKS LIKE. BUT IF A PERSON LOOKS CLOSELY INTO THE PERFECT TORAH, WHICH GIVES FREEDOM, AND CONTINUES, BECOMING NOT A FORGETFUL HEARER BUT A DOER OF THE WORK IT REQUIRES, THEN HE WILL BE BLESSED IN WHAT HE DOES.
AND LEST ANYONE THINK THAT PAUL HAS A DIFFERENT VIEWPOINT ON THIS SUBJECT, LISTEN TO THIS:
FOR YOU HAVE BEEN DELIVERED BY FAVOUR THROUGH TRUSTING, AND EVEN THIS IS NOT YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENT BUT YAHUSHA'S GIFT. YOU WERE NOT DELIVERED BY YOUR OWN ACTIONS; THEREFORE NO ONE SHOULD BOAST. FOR WE ARE OF YAHUSHA'S MAKING, CREATED IN UNION WITH THE MESSIAH YAHUSHA FOR A LIFE OF GOOD BEHAVIOUR ALREADY PREPARED BY YAHUSHA FOR US TO DO.
ARE YOU CONSCIOUSLY SEEKING YAHUSHA THROUGH CLEANING OUT AND REPENTING WHEN HE SHOWS BEHAVIOUR HE HATES?