Governor Festus, who’s been charged with the responsibility of keeping the peace in Jeruslem, is trying to figure out why a city full of religious people literally wants to tear a seemingly innocent man to pieces. He’s asking his brother-in-law, King Heerod Agrippa II, to explain it to him.
Acts 25: 16-20 “I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over any man before he has faced his accusers and has had an opportunity to defend himself against their charges…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 for these charges.”
“It is not the Roman custom…I was at a loss to know how to investigate such matters.” I don’t even know where to begin. Your culture and your religion all seem very strange to me. I’m an outsider, but I’m trying to make some sense out of your beliefs, your faith and your behavior. I don’t profess to be a religious person, but where I come from, we don’t judge or condemn anybody until they’ve faced their accusers and had a chance to defend themselves. We listen to what others are saying about them and judge them by he evidence we see. We give them the punishment we think they deserve.
Acts 25:21 “When Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emporer’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Ceasar.”
I’m sending him to Caesar. Caesar is our god. When someone is accused of breaking the law, we let Caesar decide who’s innocent and who’s guilty. You claim to be religious people. You’re accusing him of committing some kind of religious crime, why don’t you hand him over to YOUR God and let HIM decide whether this man innocent or guilty? Why are all of you acting like the judge, the jury and the executioner?
Do you really want to kill him just because he claims a dead man is still alive? What kind of crazy justice system are you people running here; and you think WE’RE the Barbarians? Explain it to me Agrippa.
Acts 25: 22-23 Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear this man myself.’ He replied, ‘Tomorrow you will hear him.’ The next day, Agrippa and Berniece came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high ranking officers and leaders of the city.”
Church people have a way of appearing pompous in the eyes of non-believers sometimes. Who does Agrippa think he is? Does he think he’s more important than Festus; better than Festus?
Agrippa was supposed to be “the king of the Jews;” and I’m sure he believed he was. But Rome didn’t take him seriously. Even his own people didn’t take him seriously. When Pontius Pilate stood Jesus in front of an angry mob, Pilate asked, “Do you want me to crucify your king?” The crowd shouted back, “We have no king but Caesar.”
This always reminds me of that popular TV sitcom in the 50’s called ”The Honeymooners” staring Jackie Gleason and Audrie Meadows. Ralph Cramden would say, “I’m the king, Alice. You’re nothin’!” And Alice would reply “I guess that makes you the king of nothin’.”
Agrippa was definitely “the king of nothin’.” Israel was now part of the Roman Empire and Caesar was the Emperor, the king of kings. Agrippa could think whatever he wanted to think about himself. But the truth is, that in spite of all the pomp, he wasn’t really a king. He wasn’t even free. He was just as much a slave to Rome as everybody else. He just didn’t like to think about it. He didn’t want to admit it.
We may act like we’re holy and special, but the world doesn’t see us that way. All we will ever be are sinners, cleansed, forgiven and saved by God’s grace.
Acts 25: 24-27 “…I found he has done nothing deserving of death, but because he has made his appeal to the Emporer, I decided to send him to Rome, But I have nothing definite to write to his majesty about him. So I have brought him before all of you…so that as a result of this investigation, I mqy have something to write. For I think it unreasonable to send on a prisoner without specifying the charges against him.”
Help me fill out the paper work, Agrippa. How do I explain this to Caesar? Why would this man (anyone) prefer to be judged by his enemies in Rome than be judged by his friends in Jerusalem?
Where will he get a fairer trial? Where will he receive more compassion and understanding? Who has more patience? Who will show him more grace, my world or your “Church?”
This man, Paul, has done nothing wrong. He truly is innocent, but religious, God-fearing, Bible-believing people keep shouting, “Rid the world of him. He ought not to live any longer” (Acts 25:24) If they can do that to someone like him, what would they do to someone like me?
Where can I go if I’m not perfect? Who will still love me if I’m flawed? Who will be patient with me? Who will listen to me? Who will treat me with more compassion and understanding; the church or the world?
Where can I go when I’m no longer guilty; when I’ve repented, paid the price and been forgiven? Who will accept me? Who will trust me? Who will stop judging me?
We need to show the world the difference between religion and faith. Religion is all in the head. It’s on paper. Faith is the product of a changed heart. We want the world to see the difference between Church people and believers.
Church people go to church. They think they’re good people and they’re going to heaven because they go to church. Believers know they’re sinners, but they’ll be in heaven because of God’s grace and they are trusting in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of their sin.
Everyone who walks through the door of a church for the first time should know as soon as they step foot in that place that they don’t have to be perfect to be loved there. In fact, the church is the perfect place to be if you’re not perfect.
Lord willing, we’ll pick this up again next Tuesday.