Festus, because he wanted to curry favor with the Jews, asked Paul, “Are you willing to go with me to Jerusalem and be tried for these charges?” Paul replied, “I am standing here before Caesar’s tribunal. This is where I should be tried. As you well know, I have done no harm to the Jews. If I have committed a crime worthy of death, I won’t seek to escape the death penalty. But if none of their charges are true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” After conferring with the members of his council, Festus replied, “Since you have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you will go!” (Acts 25:9-12 TPT)
Bearing the injustice coming from the insincerity of Governor Felix, the Apostle Paul stayed in prison custody for somewhat above 2 years. When Felix disgracefully left office and another Governor, Festus, took over, he was handed over the case of Apostle Paul. The Jews having found the occasion of a new governor, and knowing that the new governor would want to be in good rapour with his new constituency, took the opportunity of his first state visit to Jerusalem to bring up their charges against Paul. They requested that Paul should be transferred to Jerusalem for a trial (with the intention of killing him on the way), but Festus, being a just man, refused. He insisted that the Jews should report to the capital city for trial.
Paul’s trial before Festus was one of the shortest ever recorded. When the court sat, and the accusers of Paul came up to bring their case against him, Festus was disappointed. In his words to King Agrippa sometime later, he said, “When I was in Jerusalem, the leading priests and Jewish elders pressed charges against him and demanded that I issue a guilty verdict against him. I explained to them that it is not our Roman custom to condemn any man before he has an opportunity to face his accusers and present his defense. So they returned here with me. I didn’t postpone the trial, but convened the court the very next day and ordered the man to be brought before me. I listened to their accusations against him, but they were not what I expected to hear, for he had committed no crime. Rather, their issues centered around disagreements with him over their religion, and about a dead man named Jesus, who Paul claimed was alive. Because I was perplexed about how to proceed, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to stand trial on these charges. When Paul appealed his case to the emperor for a decision, I ordered him to be held in custody until I could send him to Caesar.” (Acts 25:15-21 TPT)
Paul’s case perplexed Festus because he discovered that the Jews had no tangible issue against this man. So, in a bit to see how he could bring the matter to an end, and desiring to please the Jews, he asked Paul if he was willing to stand trial before him at Jerusalem. Now, that question was preposterous because, what would have been the difference between being tried here in the Capital city and being tried at Jerusalem? It would still be the same judge, prosecution and defense. Paul simple saw that possibility that the Governor was trying to yield to pressure; so he took his case out of the Governor’s hands and appealed to Caesar. I believe that the decision pleased the Governor since it took the case out of his hands. So, he simply said, “You have appealed to Caesar, and to Caesar you must go.”
It was days later that Festus realized the challenge with that decision. What was he going to report to Caesar that was the man’s crime? What could he tell Caesar was the reason why he (Festus) could not handle the case? This concern led him to express the matter to King Agrippa (the son of King Herod who killed Apostle James), who expressed an interest to hear the case when he arrives for a courtesy visit to Governor Felix.
AND SO? In reporting the case to King Agrippa, we come face to face with the challenge the Roman Lords faced handling the early Church. All the Roman authorities saw nothing wrong for which the early brethren should be punished or killed. To Festus, the whole battle was about “a dead man named Jesus, who Paul claimed was alive.” This has been the contention from the early days until now. The world can accommodate us with our good morals, with our convictions and our perspectives if only we will stop talking about “this Jesus”. It is not a surprise that many Christian artistes have had people approach them and offered them a place in the scheme of things if only they could stop singing or talking about Jesus. He has been the subject of controversy from the inception of the Church till today.
In the midst of all the accusations they were bringing against Paul, Governor Festus was able to pick out what the real issue was- the dead man Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.
And indeed, He is alive. It is not merely a claim, it is a reality. We see the evidences all around us- The miracle of changed lives (we will hear more of that tomorrow when Paul stands before Agrippa and brings his testimony); and the evidences of men and women who saw Him and are still seeing Him today. This Jesus is not dead, He is very much alive. He is in charge, and one day He will come back to rule this earth. If you have not given him a place in your life… the time is NOW. Let Him have His way in your life. That is an incontrovertible recipe for a fulfilled life.