Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth. Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. — Acts 25:17-19
There are certain “defining moments” that fundamentally change the future of an individual, a movement, a nation, or even the world.
In our personal lives, the moment could be as significant as meeting our future spouse, or accepting the entry-level position that leads to a lifetime career. It may involve a pivotal decision or an unexpected crisis. Whatever the specifics, most of us can look back and identify a handful of events in our lives that changed us and our future in a dramatic way. As Christians, our experience of salvation would be first.
In a broader forum, multiple defining moments in history have shaped our world. Some of these events occurred in a single day; some spanned a century or more. Some affected only a country or two, while others touched every continent around the globe and brought about a completely new way of thinking. Included are the Renaissance, the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, the Protestant Reformation, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the two World Wars.
While there is no question that all of these events radically affected our world, the most defining moment in history was the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. In our text today, the stage was set for Paul to proclaim the doctrine of the Resurrection before Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice in his last message recorded in Acts. Festus described Paul’s case to King Agrippa by stating that the accusations against the Apostle were based on his preaching of “one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.”
Just as witnesses and historical records confirm that notable world events took place, witnesses and historical records attest to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. In spite of the disbelief of the Jewish religious leaders, Festus, Agrippa, Bernice, and countless others through the ages, Jesus Christ, was dead and came back to life! The Resurrection is the most essential doctrine in Christianity. Paul boldly testified to it, declaring at various times in his ministry and epistles that if Jesus Christ was not raised, then preaching is vain, our faith is ineffective, we are yet in our sins, the dead perish without hope, and Christians who are alive are “of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19), having no hope beyond the grave.
Now the question is this: what will we do with the reality of the Resurrection? Some people, like the religious leaders of Paul’s day, will try to ignore or discount the event. Others, however, will acknowledge the defining nature of that long-prophesied and amazing occurrence, and worship Jesus Christ as their risen Lord. Let us purpose to be among the latter — to cherish and uphold the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection, and like Paul, to be faithful in proclaiming it!
In chapter 25, the high priest and Jewish religious leaders brought accusations against Paul, this time before Porcius Festus, the governor who succeeded Felix. Verses 1-12 cover the Jews’ plotting and charges against Paul, and the Apostle’s request to be tried before Caesar. Verses 13-22 record Agrippa’s arrival in Caesarea, and Festus’ explanation to him of the dilemma regarding the charges against Paul, whom he knew to be innocent. The final five verses of the chapter describe Festus’ introduction to Agrippa prior to Paul’s defense (which is recorded in chapter 26).
Until Festus’ arrival in Judea, historical records make no mention of him. He succeeded Felix when Felix was recalled to Rome to give an account for disturbances that had occurred under his jurisdiction; this likely took place about A.D. 58 or 59. Since Felix had failed to deal with the accusations against Paul, Festus had to make a determination about the prisoner after he assumed the office of governor.
The Jews wanted to have Paul sent to Jerusalem, intending to ambush and kill him as he traveled there. In their request to Festus, the statement that they “desired favour against him” (verse 3) indicates they pled with Festus in an urgent and persistent manner. Likely, the planned ambush involved the forty plotters whose earlier attempt had failed (see Acts 23:12-24) and who were more anxious than ever to achieve their goal of eliminating Paul. However, Festus denied their request and said Paul would be kept in Caesarea and his accusers would be invited to come there.
At the arraignment about ten days later, the complaints against the Apostle were “many and grievous” (literally, “weighty”), but they could not be proved because Paul was not guilty of breaking either Jewish or Roman law. The case should have been dismissed at that point, but Festus was “willing to do the Jews a pleasure” (verse 9), indicating that Festus was primarily concerned about what would best serve his own interests. When Festus asked Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem for a trial, the Apostle asserted his legal right as a Roman citizen to be tried before a Roman tribunal.
The “council” (translated from the Greek word symboulion) that Festus conferred with in verse 12 was not the Sanhedrin (synedrion in Greek) but a group of advisors to the governor.
Herod Agrippa II, officially named Marcus Julius Agrippa (sometimes called simply Agrippa), had come to power in A.D. 53 and governed most of Judea by the time of Paul’s trial. The son of Herod Agrippa and grandson of Herod the Great, he was the last of the Herodian dynasty and the final Jewish ruler to have the title “king.” The emperor had given Agrippa the right of superintending the Temple in Jerusalem and appointing its high priest, and he was considered to be thoroughly Roman in tastes and sympathies. He had a close acquaintance with the historian Josephus, having supplied him with information for his history, Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus preserved two of the letters he received from Agrippa.
Bernice was a sister to Agrippa, and according to historians, was living in an incestuous relationship with him at the time of Paul’s trial.
In verse 19, Festus acknowledged to Agrippa that the real contention surrounding Paul’s teaching related to the doctrine of the Resurrection. If the resurrection of “one Jesus” were accepted as fact, then the religious leaders would have to admit that the Man they killed was in fact their own long-awaited Messiah.
(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
E. The journey of Paul to Rome
2. His witness in Caesarea
b. Paul’s defense before Festus (25:1-12)
(1) The setting (25:1-5)
(2) The trial (25:6-11)
(3) The result (25:12)
c. Paul’s defense before Agrippa
(1) The arrival of Agrippa (25:13)
(2) Festus’ presentation of Paul’s case (25:14-22)
(3) Festus’ presentation of Paul (25:23-27)
Paul’s preaching about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ created conflict between the Apostle and the Jewish religious leaders of his day. We, too, may face resistance from those who do not believe that Christ arose from the dead, but we must firmly uphold and teach that truth because it is the central doctrine of our Christian faith.