June 24, 2021
1 Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, 2 where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. 3 They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.”
6 After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. 7 When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.
8 Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”
9 Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favour, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?”
10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”
This option of appealing to Caesar was instituted about 20 years before the birth of Jesus. And while it was an option still, it did not mean that Paul went to Nero, the Caesar at this time. I had always thought that Paul went before Caesar himself to plead his case. But it is quite certain that Paul went before one of the other officials of Rome instead. All this to remind us that Paul probably did not speak to Nero himself, but he did speak with many others in Rome.
He is going to have opportunities with different guards. Portions of the leadership of the church in Rome come to him while he is there. This is where he does some of his writing to the churches. He will see at least one of the officials in Rome. And while it is not shown in Acts what happens to Paul after this, there is evidence that Paul may have been released and he made it to Spain.
The most likely reasons are due to some archaeology in Spain that shows evidence of Paul having been there and the fact that the Jews wanted to kill Paul, but were not likely to travel to Rome and lose their case.
Why is all this important to us? Paul lets us know in Philippians 1
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body
He does all of this now because he knows that it is important for him to have this opportunity to continue to encourage the church and to bring grace to others. Even earlier in Philippians 1 Paul gives the results.
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Paul shows us all that what we deal with is worthwhile as it takes us to the place of being able to encourage the church and to bring the gospel to the world.
Song – What the Lord has Done in Me
Lord God, you have declared that your kingdom is among us. Open our eyes to see it, our ears to hear it, our hearts to hold it, our hands to serve it. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.