Saturday, October 11, 2008

Acts 25:13-27

What are we to make of Festus, the procurator of Judea who has inherited this problem not of his own doing--what to do with Paul? He has just learned that Paul is in fact a Roman citizen, and therefore has the right to take his case to Caesar Nero. But before he can put this process into effect, what looks like an opportunity for further consultation and clarification comes to him.

King Agrippa was heir to the line of Herods who were nominally Jews but by no means friends to the biblical faith. Agrippa's father had been a sidebar participant in the trial of Jesus, consulted by that earlier Roman governor, Pilate. And so Agrippa's seaside vacation at Caesarea is interrupted by the puzzling case that Festus sets before him.

While Festus is painstakingly clear about every manner of legal proceedings, he really doesn't understand what Paul is about. Festus has no high regard for Judaism--his reference to points of "religion" could as easily be translated "superstition"--but he manages to get one thing, amazingly, right on target. The point he grasped was Paul's assertion that Jesus, the man who had died, was now alive.

Perhaps it was this point that sparked Agrippa's interest, for he decided, without any binding obligation, to hear directly from Paul. And so he made the next day one of those grandiose occasions of pomp and splendor for which the Herods are infamous. One can easily imagine the sight of soldiers in dress uniforms marching in, and hear the trumpets sounding. And Festus, careful, cautious, do-the-right-thing governor, is playing his part in a scene that is much bigger than he or any of the others present, regardless of their finery and their titles, could possibly imagine.

For Paul is about to tell his story.

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