Today's Bible Reading: Acts 25
Selected Biblical Text
Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus. And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying, "There is a man left prisoner by Felix, and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. So when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar." (Acts 25:13-21 ESV)
Reflecting and Thinking
Almost as soon as Festus began his work, the accusations of the Jews against Paul resurfaced. Festus initially refused to send Paul to Jerusalem; he heard the case again in Caesarea with Paul defending himself. When it appeared that the case might be sent to Jerusalem where Paul perceived his life would be in danger, Paul appealed to Caesar. Perhaps Paul remembered the words of the Lord that he would testify also in Rome. Regardless, the die is cast, and Paul will go to Caesar's court.
Meanwhile, a visit from king Agrippa gives Festus an opportunity to give his account of the events (see text above). The visit also gives Paul an opportunity to present his case again.
Do you think Paul had in mind God's vision and the prediction that he would testify in Rome when he appealed to Caesar? Festus admits that there were no sustainable charges but only religious disputes. Why would Festus not make a decision to release Paul? What dynamics of the Roman efforts to keep the Jews at peace might be reflected in the decision of Festus?
Heavenly Father, we know that you work in mysterious ways in this world. We do not understand your wisdom or your timing. We are grateful that you are with us as you were with Paul. Bring us closer to you today, through Jesus we offer this prayer, amen.