From here to the end of the Book of Acts we see the captivity and trials of Paul to its final end in Rome. Governor Festus, unnamed chief priests, King Agrippa II with his sister*Bernice, Caesarea, all additional background leading up to Paul’s execution and the concurring Jewish revolt against Rome plus the Roman orator hired by the Sanhedrin to present their case against Paul all rolled into chapters 24 – 26. It is no wonder that there is so much tentativeness to actually conclude a trial with Paul. Roman authorities keep pushing it up the ladder finding reasons to delay sentencing an innocent man but holding him for Geo-political reasons.
*A student of the bible should understand that when a first person, place, or thing is identified in the bible, it isn’t an accident or something to fill a page. Emperoris one of those aha-moments in scripture. She is from Cilicia just as is Paul. She was part of the Herodian dynasty that ruled the Roman province of Judea from 55 to 93 C.E. Her father was King Herod Agrippa I. She was sister to Herod Agrippa II. She had a number of failed marriages not to make her the victim. During the First Jewish-Roman War (67 C.E.) she began a love affair with the future (Emperor) Titus Flavius Vespasian.
Acts 25:3 once again points out the deviant and abhorrent actions of the Jewish leadership. The Romans knew Jewish leadership and these people spelled trouble. Their continual trouble-making is but one reason they have been expelled from so many countries over the centuries. They continued to kick the dead horse and held grudges for years. Look at the middle east today…what has changed? Now they wanted Paul to be brought to Jerusalem so he could be killed while in route. A plan derailed by Governor Felix. Probably because Paul appealed to Caesar.
Governor Festus being the new guy on the block denied permission to take Paul to Jerusalem for additional prosecution (perhaps persecution) by the Jewish courts. He kept this under his thumb and said he would judge, not the Jews of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. At the same time as history records, the Romans knew that the Jews were a force with which they must be aware. He listened to the charges against Paul none of which they could prove. Acts 25:8 is the beginning of Paul’s defense and from his own mouth…
Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”
Governor Festus wanting to placate the Jews asked Paul if he would go to Jerusalem to be tried. Paul responds that he is already standing in front of the “authority” of this area. Why go there only to stand in front of the same man? Paul is very forthright. He states in v11 that if he committed a crime worth death, he would not resist the executioner. At this point [Acts 25:11] Paul assures his trip to Rome by “appealing to Caesar;” i.e. Emperor Nero. There is great turmoil in the Roman Empire at this time; Emperor Nero the firebug and the pending Jewish revolt.
Acts 25:13 is interesting. Look back at the aster-ix on page one describing the shifty Bernice and her brother King Agrippa II. They show up at Caesarea; a brother and a sister. She was obviously of some influence over her brother. In v14 Governor Felix explains to King Agrippa that Paul is a left over case from the former governor Felix. Governor Felix had already tried Paul and found him innocent but to gain some favor with the insistent and persistent Jews he left Paul in prison. Now it is Governor Felix’s problem. He is very befuddled.
(v14) Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix, and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him.
Felix explains to King Agrippa II (and) Bernice that the problem with Paul is Jewish religion, attitude, and some guy named Jesus. This would lead us to believe they did NOT KNOW about the crucifixion of Jesus only 20 years earlier. Since these Roman leaders were supposedly “in the know” due to their authority, political position and knowledge, we can deduce that the gospel message was still limited in its scope, reach, and frequency. Felix points out part of the argument between Paul and the Jews was that this Jesus was supposed to be dead per the Jews but yet he was very much alive per Paul.
King Agrippa II states that he would like to hear from this man named Paul. [v22]. Whether it was to see and hear from Paul or the pomp and circumstances provided him at this meeting Agrippa wanted (see verse 23) is unknown. However the bible includes “Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city”. Sounds very ceremonial. Not an uncommon aspect of the Herods; Idumean by blood; that is offspring of Esau, twin of Jacob.
“...but I found nothing deserving of death” explains Felix to Agrippa. What Governor Felix is searching for is an accusation worthy of “appealing to Caesar.” He would need to or to the Emperor with some degree of criminality for even sending Paul to Rome. As we close chapter 25 Felix states it in his own words: “For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner (to Rome), not to indicate the charges against him.”
Rev. Dr. Jstark