- to locate Caesarea on a map
- to recognize the names of Governor Felix, Governor Festus, King Agrippa, Caesar Nero
- to recognize the importance of a single testimony and belief in the resurrection
- to verbalize that God has a plan and He is in control
Paul is in custody in Caesarea.
It is important to remember of what the Jewish Leaders originally accused Paul. They had accused him of teaching all men to be against the Jews. They had also accused him of defiling the temple by bringing a Gentile into an area where he wasn’t supposed to be. Of course, both accusations are incorrect.
Knowing some history is important as well. There are 3 Roman Governors mentioned in the New Testament. Pontius Pilate, Felix and Festus. Being leaders of the Holy Land would mean that Felix and Festus were familiar with Jewish customs and beliefs. They would also have been knowledgeable of how volatile the region was. They would be motivated to keep the Jews happy so no fighting would break out. King Agrippa was the great-grandson of King Herod who had the babies of Bethlehem slaughtered. Agrippa was a practicing Jew and was very familiar with the scriptures. At this time in the early years of his reign, Caesar Nero was known as a relatively good leader of Rome.
Main Events of Acts 24-26:
Trial 1: Governor Felix received Paul and the letter from the Commander. After 5 days, the High Priest and other Jewish leaders, along with their lawyer, came to Caesarea. Paul was accused of being a “pest” or a “plague.” He was accused of creating strife among all Jews all over the world. Paul was also accused of profaning the temple. The lawyer told Felix that the Jewish Leaders had arrested Paul at the temple, but that the Commander, “with great violence” took Paul from them. Paul defended himself by telling Felix he had gone to the temple to worship, but that he does believe as those of The Way. Paul also stated that it was a handful of Jews from Asia who started all the trouble and accusations. Paul ended his defense by telling Felix that even these Jewish Leaders present had no proof of Paul doing anything except saying his statement about hope in the resurrection.
Felix stopped the trial. He was aware of those in The Way and wanted to wait for the Commander to come to the city and we don’t know if he ever did. Felix kept Paul in custody, but gave him the freedom to see, and be provided by, friends. After a few days, Felix and his wife Drusilla send for Paul to hear about his belief in Christ. As Felix came under the convection of the holy Spirit, he became afraid and sent Paul away. Felix wanted Paul to bribe him for his freedom, but Paul did not do it. Felix must have enjoyed his conversations with Paul, for he had many with him. After 2 years, Felix is replaced by Festus.
Trial 2: The High Priest told Festus about Paul and how he wanted Paul to come back to Jerusalem. (Of course he didn’t tell Festus he wanted Paul ambushed and killed on the way!) After 10 days, Festus had a trial for Paul. The High Priest and leaders complained about Paul, but they did not have enough proof to bring charges against him. Festus asked Paul, “Are you willing to stand trial in Jerusalem?” Paul responded, “To the Jews I have done no wrong. I appeal to Caesar.” In response Festus said, “You appeal to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!”
Trial 3: Festus had a problem though. Paul wasn’t accused of anything! AND he was a Roman citizen so he doesn’t know what to tell Caesar about Paul. King Agrippa and his sister Bernice came to visit. Festus told Agrippa about Paul and this problem. Agrippa said, “I’d like to hear the man myself.” Paul was brought before them in chains and the leaders were in full pomp and circumstance with many other important people. Agrippa said, “Speak for yourself,” and Paul started telling his testimony including his conversion, preaching to the Gentile,s and about Jesus being risen from the dead.
At this point Festus said, “You are mad!”
Paul: I am speaking truth and reason. King Agrippa? Do you believe the prophets? (This is a very important question because Agrippa is a Jew. A good Jew believes the prophets, BUT at this point after the message Paul gave, if Agrippa stated he believed the prophets, then he would be stating that Jesus was the One who fulfilled them.)
Agrippa: Ah, Paul, you’ve almost persuaded me to be a Christian!
Paul: I hope that you, and all who hear, would become as I.
Paul was taken away and Agrippa turned to Festus and said, “This man has done nothing. He’d be free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”
No one knows who, if anyone, came to know Jesus that day. But Paul’s testimony was important. He was preaching Truth to Kings and Governors just as Jesus said he would. He was also on his way to Rome to see Caesar just as Jesus said. God’s promises are true and trustworthy.
The fact of Jesus’ resurrection is still a stumbling block to many people. People have a hard time fathoming anyone coming back to life. Christianity is THE only religion who’s “prophet” or “messiah” is alive. That’s why our celebration of Easter is so important. Perhaps it should be a greater holiday than Christmas. Because without Easter, Christmas means nothing.