- Acts 24:1-26:32
Now in custody of the Roman governor Felix, Paul defended himself against accusations by the chief priests, elders and teachers of the Law. Felix was very familiar with Christianity, referred to in the text as “the Way,” and he ordered Paul kept in prison for two years. Thankfully, Paul was allowed some freedom and his friends were allowed to come take care of Paul’s needs. Felix talked with Paul frequently over the course of two years, but he hoped Paul would offer him a bribe to buy his freedom, which Paul didn’t do.
After two years, Felix was replaced by a new governor named Porcius Festus. The Daily Bible notes state that secular history tells us there were serious riots and charges against Felix by the Jews, which prompted his return to Rome, and his replacement by Festus. Three days after he arrived, Festus went to Jerusalem to discuss Paul’s case with the Jews. The Jews tried to get Festus to allow Paul to stand trial before them in Jerusalem, but secretly they planned to kill him as he was on the journey to Jerusalem. Festus wouldn’t agree, and instead offered for the Jews to come to Caesarea and press charges against Paul there if they desired.
Festus ordered the court assembled and had the Jews present their case against Paul and, once again, Paul was allowed to defend himself. Festus wanted to do the Jews a favor, so he asked Paul if he was willing to go to Jerusalem to stand trial. Paul refused, appealing to Caesar himself. Festus agreed, as it was any Roman citizen’s right to appeal their case before the Emperor.
A few days later, King Agrippa arrived to visit Festus. Festus told him about Paul and said he had appealed to Caesar, but Festus wasn’t sure what to write regarding the accusations against Paul. Agrippa replied that he would like to hear Paul himself. So the next day, once again Paul defended himself, this time before Agrippa. Afterward, Agrippa told Festus privately that Paul hadn’t done anything deserving of death or imprisonment, and that he would have probably been set free, had he not appealed to Caesar.
All of these events are part of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy to His apostles, where He said:
9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
(Mark 13:9-13 NIV)