Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Acts 25 – Paul on Trial Before Festus

(read Acts 25)

After two year in prison under Roman governor Felix, Paul finds himself under Festus, Felix's successor. History tells us that Felix was removed from power because of popular uprising against his increasingly corrupt and unreasonable rule. While in custody, Paul experienced favour as a prisoner. Now under the protection of Rome, he was able to continue his teaching ministry to friends and comrades who could visit him unhindered. For two years he could write his letters undisturbed by his enemies and accusers.

The work of those wh
o had tried to have him killed resulted in his protection. The empire Paul an the Way resisted nonviolently and in spirit enabled Paul to continue effectively spreading his message even further, reaching even people in our day. This message was and is still entirely against everything corrupt the Empires represent. It was the corruption and greed of Felix that allowed the message to continue to be spread.

In this chapter (Acts 25), the attempts of the religious and politically powerful to destroy the message of Justice and Freedom will once again be turned toward its further growth.

When Paul was travelling as a missionary, God used his words and actions for the benefit of the Kingdom. When Paul acted in wisdom and love, God used him in his faithfulness. When Paul acted in selfishness and control, God used him despite his faults. In the same way, God's Kingdom will advance in the world, turning it always toward greater Justice and Grace, with or despite the actions of anyone and everyone, opponent or ambassador.

Acts 25:8-11 (ESV)
8 Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” 10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

Paul's enemies in Jerusalem seek to kill him only three days after the new governor Festus takes power. They ask for Paul to be transferred to trial in Jerusalem, intending to kill him on the way. Festus demands the trial happen without Paul's transfer. Roman law requires an accuser to face the accused personally. This fact has worked in Paul's favour in past trials, and informed his wise defenses. His enemies travel to face him before Festus.

During the trial, the accusers again ask for Paul to be sent to Jerusalem. Paul instead appeals to Ceasar, his right as a Roman citizen. We do not know if Paul does this to save his own life by remaining in Roman custody, or whether he is following the prophesy he received years before that said he would testify of Jesus in Rome. Whatever Paul's personal intentions, the machinations of his enemies are once again turned toward the Kingdom's favour. Paul will be heard by Ceasar.

Before going to Ceasar, Festus brings Paul to Agrippa for questioning. Roman custom at the time often included collaboration and counsel between Roman rulers on difficult judgments. Once again, the powers religious and political that the Way resists become the vehicle of further spread of their message of resistance.

v3 – After two years of prison time, people are still plotting unsuccessfully to have Paul killed. Prison isn’t enough.
v8 – Paul makes another defense in secular court, two years later.
v11 – Paul appeals to Caesar.

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