April 27, Monday
Some days later Felix along with his wife Drusilla, herself a Jewess, sent for Paul and enquired about the Message of Christ Jesus. However, while Paul was talking about goodness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became troubled and dismissed him, saying, “That will be enough for now. When I find time, I will send for you again.” He was actually hoping that Paul would pay him money, which is why Paul was frequently summoned to come and talk with him. However, after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and as Festus wanted to curry favor with the Jews, he left Paul in prison.
Just three days after Festus had taken over his duties as Governor, he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. While he was there, the chief priests and elders of the Jews informed him of the case against Paul and urged him to have Paul sent to Jerusalem. They had already made a plot to kill him on the way. But Festus replied that Paul was in custody in Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly.
“What you must do,” he told them, “is to provide some competent men of your own to go down with me. They can present their charges against him there.”
About ten days later Festus returned to Caesarea from Jerusalem. The very next day he took his seat on the bench and ordered Paul to be brought in. As soon as he arrived, the Jews from Jerusalem pressed in around him, bringing all kinds of serious accusations with no evidence whatsoever. Paul defended himself by simply stating, “I have committed no offence in any way against the Jewish Law, against the Temple, or against Caesar.”
But Festus, wishing to gain favor with the Jews, asked Paul, “Are you prepared to go up to Jerusalem and stand your trial over these matters in my presence there?”
Paul replied, “Here I stand in Caesar’s tribunal which is where I should be judged. I have done the Jews no harm, as you very well know. If I were proven to be a criminal and had committed some crime which deserved the death penalty, I would willingly accept the sentence of death. But since there is no truth in the accusations these men have made, I am not prepared to be used as a means of gaining their favor. I appeal to Caesar!”
Then Festus, after a brief meeting with his council, replied to Paul, “You have appealed to Caesar. Then to Caesar you shall go!”
Some days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea on a state visit to Festus. They prolonged their stay for some days and Festus spoke with him about Paul’s case, saying, “I have here a man who was left a prisoner by Felix. Recently, while I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and Jewish elders made allegations against him and demanded his conviction!
“I explained to them that the Romans were not in the habit of handing someone over to their accusers until they had been given the opportunity of defending themselves on the charges made against them. Since these Jews came back here with me, I wasted no time in pursuing the case. However, once the prosecution got up to speak, their charges weren’t at all what I had expected.
“Their charges had to do with their religion and a certain Jesus who had died, but whom Paul claimed to be still alive. Since I did not feel qualified to adjudicate the matter, I asked the man if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there. It was at that point that he appealed to have his case reserved for the decision of the Emperor himself. So I ordered him to be kept in custody until I could send him to Caesar.”
Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.”
“Then you shall hear him tomorrow,” replied Festus.