Paul Asks To Be Tried
1Three days after Festus had become governor, he went from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2There the chief priests and some Jewish leaders told him about their charges against Paul. They also asked Festus 3if he would be willing to bring Paul to Jerusalem. They begged him to do this because they were planning to attack and kill Paul on the way. 4But Festus told them, “Paul will be kept in Caesarea, and I am soon going there myself. 5If he has done anything wrong, let your leaders go with me and bring charges against him there.”
6Festus stayed in Jerusalem for eight or ten more days before going to Caesarea. Then the next day he took his place as judge and had Paul brought into court. 7As soon as Paul came in, the leaders from Jerusalem crowded around him and said he was guilty of many serious crimes. But they could not prove anything. 8Then Paul spoke in his own defense, “I have not broken the Law of my people. And I have not done anything against either the temple or the Emperor.”
9Festus wanted to please the leaders. So he asked Paul, “Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and be tried by me on these charges?”
10Paul replied, “I am on trial in the Emperor's court, and that's where I should be tried. You know very well I have not done anything to harm the Jewish nation. 11If I had done something deserving death, I would not ask to escape the death penalty. But I am not guilty of any of these crimes, and no one has the right to hand me over to these people. I now ask to be tried by the Emperor himself.”
12After Festus had talked this over with members of his council, he told Paul, “You have asked to be tried by the Emperor, and to the Emperor you will go!”
Recently the newspapers carried the story of two Canadians who had been kidnapped in the Philippines. These men had been involved in government work and were being held for ransom by terrorists. The families of the two men pressed the Canadian government to take action in order to save their lives. The policy of the government is not to give in to terrorists since this only encourages them to keep engaging in this kind of blackmail. As a result no ransom was paid and the two men were murdered. Prime Minister Trudeau said this was one of his darkest moments since taking office.
To some extent this story speaks to our Scripture. Paul is being held prisoner because of the hatred of the Jewish leadership. Paul has spoken of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament hope in the coming Messiah to which both Moses and the prophets pointed. His conversion from a strict Pharisee to a Christian has enraged his enemies. They want nothing less than his death.
Festus has replaced Felix as Roman governor and is in Jerusalem. The men who are plotting the death of Paul want to get to Festus while he is still unfamiliar with the history of Paul’s case. On returning to Caesarea he talks with Paul and asks him if he would be prepared to return to Jerusalem and face his accusers. Paul has been through this business before and knows how this would likely end. He tells Festus that he has broken no Jewish laws nor has he desecrated the Temple. He certainly is not charged with any crime against Rome. He emphasizes that he stands before a Roman governor who is the proper person to judge him. But he appeals to Caesar, which is his right as a Roman citizen.
Lord we are aware that we live in a fallen world that attempts to intimidate us. Help us always to stand firmly for our rights as citizens of the Kingdom of God.