As we navigate through this passage of scripture together, I’d like us to be thinking about what non-believers see when they look at “the Church.” What do non-believers learn about Jesus when they watch how “Christians” treat one another? Is there a difference between Christian faith and Christian religion?
The Jewish Rulers in Jerusalem want the Apostle Paul to be put to death. They see him as a threat to their leadership because he’s been telling people that putting your faith in Jesus is more important than keeping the Law. They’ve already decided to kill Paul but they’re trying to justify their actions by putting him on trial. They’ve even paid witnesses to lie about him.
Their plan has been complicated by the fact that Paul happens to be a Roman citizen so the Roman Government has gotten involved and they don’t want to hand Paul over to the Jewish leaders without first finding out what crimes, if any, has committed. His case has been bouncing around in the Roman legal system for over two years and nobody seems to know what to do.
Last week, Governor Felix was summoned to Rome because of increasing unrest among the Jews in his province. He was replaced by a man named Festus. Festus comes to clean up the mess Felix left behind.
Acts 25: 1-3 Three days after arriving in the provence, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where chief priests and Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They urgently requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way.”
The first thing Festus is hit with is a petition from the prosecution. The chief priests and elders from Jerusalem are asking for a change of venue for this trial. They want the trial moved back to Jerusalem. Paul seems to be getting a fair trial in Caesarea so they’ve planned to kill him before he even reaches Jerusalem.
Acts 25: 4-5 “Festus answered, Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me and press charges against this man there, if he has done anything wrong.”
This whole Jewish culture is so new to me. This whole mess seems to be a colossal waste of time. Your petition for a change of venue is denied. The trial will be held in Caesarea.
Acts 25: 6-7 After spending eight or ten days with them, he went down to Caesarea, and the next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul appeared, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove.”
Same old – same old. Same old charges. Still no proof.
Acts 25:8 “Then Paul made his defense: ‘I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the Temple or against Caesar.’”
Same old defense. I’m still not guilty. I have done nothing wrong.
Acts 25: 9 “Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, ;Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?’”
You haven’t broken any Roman laws Paul and Roman prisons can be pretty nasty. Are you willing go back to Jerusalem and try to work this out with your own people? You all believe in the same God. Can’t you talk this over and work out some kind of solution yourselves?
There are a lot of people who are “outside” the church, just like Festus; people who’ve never been to church or who haven’t been to church since they were children; people who can’t tell the difference between “church people” and “believers.” They can’t distinguish between the “church” as an organized religion and the church as a living spiritual body.
They can’t distinguish between doctrine and faith. They hear what we say but we keep confusing them by what we do; especially by what we do to each other. We keep insisting they need to be like us. We keep claiming to have found what they’re missing, but we’ve got them scratching their heads.
Acts 25: 10-12 “Paul answered, ‘I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But, if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.’”
“I appeal to Caesar.” Where would I get a fairer trial; in Rome or in Jerusalem? Where are sinners treated better; in the church or in the world? When I’ve sinned; when I’ve made a mistake; when I’ve done something terrible or foolish; where will I find more compassion? Who has more patience? Who gives more grace? Who shows more mercy; the Church or the secular world?
Acts 25: 13-15 A few days later, King Agrippa arrived at Caesarea to pay respects to Festus. Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king,”
“Festus discussed Paul’s case with King Agrippa.” He is actually King Agrippa II, the son of King Agrippa I. He’s the brother of Bernice and Governor Felix’s wife, Drucilla.
Felix left a big mess behind him here. I’ve only been here 3 days. Please help me understand what’s going on here. He hasn’t murdered anybody or stolen anything. He really hasn’t broken any Roman laws, but he wants his case to be tried by Caesar. This is a religious matter. These seem to be doctrinal differences. Do your people really want to kill him just because they don’t agree with what he’s saying? How can such supposedly loving people possibly hate somebody so much?
Why are religious people so critical and judgmental? Why are they so vindictive? Help me out here. I’m at a loss. It is not the Roman custom. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Why should I be more like you? Why should I want what you have? Help me understand this, king.
Acts 25:12 – “After Felix had conferred with his council, he declared, ‘You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go.’”
I’ve just gone over mt limit of a thousand words. Lord willing, we’ll start from here next Tuesday. BTW, this is my first post from our new home in Lancaster, PA.