Acts 25:1-12-When Festus arrived in Caesarea he made an evaluation of the political and religious climate. He decided to make a trip to Jerusalem, the religious capital of the Jews. When he arrived, the Jews requested that Paul be returned to them. Their intention was to ambush him along the way and kill him. Festus told them to come to Caesarea and that Paul would be tried there. When Festus returned to Caesarea the Jews sent a delegation with him for the trial. The Jews brought many charges against Paul, but he responded that he was innocent of them all. Festus was trying to develop a political harmony with the Jews so he asked Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial. Paul said that if he was going to be tried, the correct place was in a Roman court, not a Jewish court. Paul knew that if he went to Jerusalem he would be found guilty, regardless. He had also come to the realization of the political collusion that was taking place between Festus and the Jews. Because of the influenced attitude of Festus to please the Jews, he would not have a fair chance if judged by him, either. Therefore, he refused to go to Jerusalem, or to stand trial before Festus, and exercised his right as a Roman citizen and said, "I appeal to Caesar" (:11). Nero was the emperor at this time (A.D. 54-68). Festus confers with his legal council and determines that it is Paul’s right to have a hearing before the emperor.
Paul’s appeal to Caesar
- I appeal to Cæsar—The right of appeal to the supreme power, in case of life and death, was secured by an ancient law to every Roman citizen, and continued under the empire. Had Festus shown any disposition to pronounce final judgment, Paul, strong in the consciousness of his innocence and the justice of a Roman tribunal, would not have made this appeal. But when the only other alternative offered him was to give his own consent to be transferred to the great hotbed of plots against his life, and to a tribunal of unscrupulous and bloodthirsty ecclesiastics whose vociferous cries for his death had scarcely subsided, no other course was open to him.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, http://biblehub.com/acts/25-11.htm
Acts 25:13-27-King Agrippa and his wife Bernice arrive for a visit. This is Herod Agrippa II, great-grandson of Herod the Great. He ruled over Galilee, Perea, and other provinces…making him the neighbor of Festus. Festus explains Paul’s case to him…telling him that it wasn’t what he had expected, but instead, was merely a matter of difference of opinion over matters of religion. These details seemed to center around “a certain dead man, Jesus, who Paul asserted to be alive” (:19). He said that since he was not familiar with such religious matters he suggested that Paul go to Jerusalem to be tried, but that Paul had appealed to Caesar. Festus asked Agrippa to hear the case about Paul so that he will have a better idea about what to write to Caesar. He agreed. Basically, Festus and Agrippa just used this as an occasion to put themselves on parade…”amid great pomp…entered the auditorium accompanied by the commanders and prominent men of the city…”. Festus declares that having heard the charges against Paul that he had found nothing that deserved the penalty of death that the Jews were demanding…but that Paul had appealed to Caesar…so to Caesar he must go. He was now requesting that they hear the charges and Paul’s defense and give him recommendations as to what he should write to the emperor concerning the trial.
For information on New Testament Political Rulers see: Luke 1:1-23
Prayer: Lord, Paul appeals to a human court here. Please give me wisdom to know how to relate to the institutions of human government. Help me to always honor You first; but, to also honor those institutions that You have ordained.