Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Acts 25 – Roman Rights, Regulations, and Charges

Acts 25

Paul Appeals to Caesar

 1 Now when Festus had come to the province, after three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2 Then the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they petitioned him, 3 asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem—while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him.

[As we read last week Felix left Paul in prison in Caesarea for two years without rendering judgment. Felix was replaced for using too much force against the Jews in putting down a civil conflict they had with the local Greeks. Festus wants to rebuild the working relationship between the Roman government and the Jewish leadership, so he makes a diplomatic visit to Jerusalem to meet with the Sanhedrin council, the priests and the elders. As soon as they have a chance the priests requests that Paul be brought back to Jerusalem so they could kill him.]


4 But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly. 5 "Therefore," he said, "let those who have authority among you go down with me and accuse this man, to see if there is any fault in him."

[It seems Festus is immediately suspicious of this idea to try Paul at Jerusalem. Instead he presents the same opportunity to Paul's accusers; that they can travel back to Caesarea to appear before the Judgment seat there. Remember Lysias and Felix
had both concluded Paul had committed no offense worthy of punishment under Roman law. But he was still held captive due to the corruption and fear that permeated Roman government.]

And when he had remained among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day, sitting on the judgment seat, he commanded Paul to be brought. 7 When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove, 8 while he answered for himself, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all."

[This sounds like a repeat of the trial from two years ago, just accusations and hear-say with no evidence. Paul gives a shorter version of his defense, pointing out to Festus that there is no legal cause of action in this case.]

9 But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?"
10 So Paul said, "I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. 11 For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar."

[Remembering the first assassination plot, he knows that a return to Jerusalem for him will be a death sentence. Just as he asserted his right of citizenship to avoid scourging, Paul does again to appeal for a change of venue in the courts of Rome. A Roman citizen who was denied justice in the provinces was allowed to move his case to Rome.]
12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, "You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!"

[So Festus is now in a tough spot; where he wanted to gain favor with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, he had to be careful to protect the rights of Roman citizens. So Festus explains this to the members of the council, and then makes his official ruling; Paul's case would be decided in Rome.]

Paul Before Agrippa

13 And after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus.

[Porcius Festus as the new Governor would expect visits and good wishes from all the local dignitaries. His first guests of this order were Herod Agrippa 2 and his sister Bernice.

Many of the provincial governors were appointed by Caesar based on their perceived loyalty to him. It is not surprising that there are many family ties within the Roman ruling class to insure loyalty to Caesar. Drusilla the wife of Felix was the great-granddaughter of Herod the Great who tried to kill Jesus as an infant; she was also the great-niece of Herod Antipas who Killed John the Baptist; and she was the daughter of Herod Agrippa 1 who killed James the brother of John. Now we meet Herod Agrippa 2 with his consort Bernice who was also his sister, and yes this is as creepy as it sounds. Besides her incestuous relationship with her brother Herod Agrippa, she will also be the mistress of Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus. So if you remember the movie Gladiator and the Emperor Commodus who had a thing for his sister, this kind of relationship was too common in the pagan days of Roman empire. Now you get an idea of the moral depravity of the broken people who sat in judgment over the saints of God. This is what human government looks like unless our leaders are redeemed by the grace of God through faith in Jesus.]

14 When they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying: "There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix, 15 about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me , when I was in Jerusalem, asking for a judgment against him. 16 To them I answered, 'It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.'

[Festus had a legal problem with Paul; even though Paul had appealed to Caesar to avoid being killed by assassins, Festus did not have any valid formal charges to write in his letter he would need to send to Rome with Paul.]

17 Therefore when they had come together, without any delay, the next day I sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed, 19 but had some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. 20 And because I was uncertain of such questions, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. 21 But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar."

22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, "I also would like to hear the man myself."
"Tomorrow," he said, "you shall hear him."

[So Festus is hoping that Agrippa being a Jew and maybe having prior experience with followers of Jesus, could help him charge Paul with something worthy of Roman judgment. Festus knows that his brother-in-law Felix was removed for his brutal mishandling Jewish conflict, so he needs council or at least political cover to dispose of Paul's case without embarrassing himself back in Rome.]

23 So the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and had entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at Festus' command Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said: "King Agrippa and all the men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he was not fit to live any longer. 25 But when I found that he had committed nothing deserving of death, and that he himself had appealed to Augustus, I decided to send him. 26 I have nothing certain to write to my lord concerning him. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him."

[What the Roman rulers lacked in ethics and moral character they made up for in ceremony. Grand auditoriums, rich clothing and flowery speech gave the appearance of dignity, and honor; but the integrity of the people behind the glitz and glamour fell short of anything an innocent man would hope for.

Caesarea was defended by 5 "cohorts" each commanded by a Tribune. Each Tribune had 6 Centurions and their troops in his charge. All this military "brass" and all the civilian authorities filled the auditorium to hear an old Pharisee tell his story. And everyone one of them will be confronted with their own sin, their own mortality, and the coming judgment of God. Agrippa thinks he is there to decide what to do with Paul, but in reality he has a divine appointment to decide what to do with Jesus. God is not impressed with man's power, authority, fine clothing, or outstanding architecture; for all these things pale in comparison to his own. This value system is different from anything the Romans have ever faced before.

In Mark 8:36 Jesus put it like this "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"

Even among those who saw Jesus in person, saw him perform miracles, and heard him teach, not everyone believed on Him, trusted in Him, was saved by Him. In John 6 Jesus spoke with people who followed him because he fed the multitudes.

John 6: 26 Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him." 28 Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"
29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." 30 Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 32 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 34 Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always." 35 And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

When we witness, and some do not believe, we tend to get discouraged. But we have to understand salvation is the work of God. Even the perfect witness, Jesus himself, had some fail to believe. But still we must witness, because everyone will either meet Jesus as their savior, or they will meet him as their judge. All will receive God's mercy, or receive God's wrath. We may not be on trial for our own lives like Paul, but our testimony can be just as important to the friends and family who hear us, when we talk about Jesus.]

No comments:

Post a Comment