25 Three days after Festus arrived, he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2 There the chief priests and the Jewish leaders came to Festus. They brought their charges against Paul. 3 They tried very hard to get Festus to have Paul taken to Jerusalem. They asked for this as a favor. They were planning to hide and attack Paul along the way. They wanted to kill him. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea. Soon I’ll be going there myself. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me. If the man has done anything wrong, they can bring charges against him there.” 6 Festus spent eight or ten days in Jerusalem with them. Then he went down to Caesarea. The next day he called the court together. He ordered Paul to be brought to him. 7 When Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many strong charges against him. But they couldn’t prove that these charges were true. 8 Then Paul spoke up for himself. He said, “I’ve done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple. I’ve done nothing wrong against Caesar.” 9 But Festus wanted to do the Jews a favor. So he said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem? Are you willing to go on trial there? Are you willing to face these charges in my court?” 10 Paul answered, “I’m already standing in Caesar’s court. This is where I should go on trial. I haven’t done anything wrong to the Jews. You yourself know that very well. 11 If I am guilty of anything worthy of death, I’m willing to die. But the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true. No one has the right to hand me over to them. I make my appeal to Caesar!” 12 Festus talked it over with the members of his court. Then he said, “You have made an appeal to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”
As I read this passage, I try to really, truly imagine what it is like to be in Paul’s shoes at this stage in Acts. The Jews in Jerusalem have managed to get hold of him and to bring him to Felix (meaning Cat) the corrupt Roman governor of Judea, just because he preached the gospel. Paul tries to preach the Gospel to Felix, but all Felix wants is to make money. TWO YEARS pass with no progress and eventually Felix loses his job because things in Judea become so much of a mess. I can just imagine Paul, waiting to meet the new governor, and I can imagine what is going through his head when he learns that the new governor is named “Porcus Festus!” (Which means something like “Party Pig!”
When the same Jews that seized Paul in the first place go even further and try to execute a plot to have Paul killed or further punished, Paul realises that Porcus will not be reasoned with and appeals to the highest worldly authority of the day – Caesar.
It is not clear why Paul makes this appeal. Perhaps though he could see that an appeal to Caesar would allow him to share the Gospel to people in the Roman government who could then be inspired by the Holy Spirit to bring about change to the whole nation.
In placing myself in Paul’s shoes, I am inspired to reflect:
– Am I willing to risk legal proceedings, imprisonment or death for the Gospel?
– How is God testing my patience? How can I be more patient like Paul when he was in prison?
– Do I think strategically about my life and where my choices will take me? Is this strategy gospel centred, or motivated by something else?
God, search me and help me to answer these reflective questions honestly. Help me to continue to draw closer to you. Amen
Written by Ps. Justin Ware