February 03, 2021 – Wednesday
Acts 26:25-27 NIV
25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable.
26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner.
27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
When we last saw Paul, he was in custody and Governor Felix was replaced by a new Governor Festus. In chapter 25 we learn the chief priests and Jewish leaders (the Sanhedrin) has Festus’ ear for over a week. They wanted Paul transferred from Caesarea to Jerusalem for trial where they plotted to murder him. You may be excused if you think this sounds like some sort of soap opera, because it does.
Festus convinces some of those opposing Paul to come to Caesarea with him where they can put him on trial. They did so and brought a number of charges against Paul but could prove none of them. Then Paul stated his defense – short and succinct – (25:8), I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar. With no charges proven against him, that should have ended the charade. Festus, however, had another idea as he wished to curry favor with the Jewish leaders asked if Paul was willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial on the same charges? The same charges on which he could not convict Paul.
Paul wisely demurred as he knew such people in Jerusalem had previously plotted to kill him. That is why he ended up in Caesarea under Roman protection in the first place. Thus, Paul not only declined but appealed to Caesar as was his right as a Roman citizen.
A few days later King Agrippa came to Caesarea to meet the new governor. He told of his problem with Paul’s accusers by saying (25:18-20), When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. Of course, as we know that is when Paul appealed to Caesar. For some reason this was of sufficient interest that King Agrippa wanted to hear what Paul had to say. Festus set up a court the next day and when things got under way said (25:24-27), King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him. Festus was in a fix and he was hoping King Agrippa would provide him a way out.
Then, in the first twenty-three verses of chapter 26 Paul states his defense. He told how he used to persecute those who followed Jesus, putting many in prison, even hunting them down in foreign cities. It was on his way to one of those cities, Damascus, he had an encounter with Jesus and has since preached to all they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. He concluded with, so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles. It was then Festus shouted (v24), You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane. It must have seemed so to him as Paul was speaking that Jesus, who had been crucified, rose from the dead and instructed Paul to give light to the Gentiles – an unquestionable delusion of someone insane, except we know it to be true.
Now we finally come to our verses for today where Paul makes the following amazing reply to Festus and to King Agrippa, I am not insane, most excellent Festus, What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.
Paul seems to depend on the King’s knowledge of scripture here and his belief in the prophets, but it was all for naught. He may have believed in the prophets, but replied sarcastically to Paul, Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian? Nonetheless, Festus and the King said to each other, This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment. King Agrippa concluded, This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.
Once again Paul sets a powerful example for us of standing firm in the faith no matter to whom he is speaking. His faith and story remain consistent throughout. He even attempts to win King Agrippa to the faith with the passionate retelling of coming to faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Even when called insane, he does not budge. What an incredible example of standing firm in the faith while those who could or should also believe because of their knowledge, still refuse to do so.
Prayer: Heavenly Father – Thank You again for the wonderful example of Paul standing firm in the faith. Let his example and others of our modern age also serve as examples for us when our time comes to stand firm. Help us to keep Paul’s example and the example of those in this article in mind when and if our turn to stand firm ever comes. – In Jesus name. Amen.