devotion 9-2-15

Acts 25:13 – 27

13After several days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to welcome Festus. 14Since they were staying there several days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man here who was left in prison by Felix. 15When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me about him and asked for a sentence against him. 16I told them that it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over anyone before the accused had met the accusers face to face and had been given an opportunity to make a defense against the charge. 17So when they met here, I lost no time, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. 18When the accusers stood up, they did not charge him with any of the crimes that I was expecting. 19Instead they had certain points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20Since I was at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there on these charges. 21But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of his Imperial Majesty, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to the emperor.” 22Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” he said, “you will hear him.” 23So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then Festus gave the order and Paul was brought in. 24And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish community petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25But I found that he had done nothing deserving death; and when he appealed to his Imperial Majesty, I decided to send him. 26But I have nothing definite to write to our sovereign about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write— 27for it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.”

King Agrippa II, son of Herod Agrippa I – who had James killed and Peter imprisoned, and great-grandson of Herod the Great, was the last of Herod the Great’s line to rule; he was the king of Iturea and Trachonitis and parts of Galilee and Perea. Bernice was his sister, who lived at her brother’s court after having been widowed. At this point, the king and his sister came to Caesarea to welcome the new governor, Festus.

Festus presented the case of Paul to the king and Bernice, asking for advice. (They did not have jurisdiction over the matter, since it originated in Jerusalem – Judea.) He tells of how neither the charges nor Paul’s defense made sense to him, but that the “whole Jewish community” had petitioned him to put Paul to death. And when Paul appealed to the emperor, he “decided to send him”. As we have said, he actually had no choice in the matter once a Roman citizen appealed to the emperor; but, he is presenting the case in the way that puts himself in the best light. He asks Agrippa to hear the case with him, so that he may know what to write to the emperor when he sends the man to Rome. They come into the audience hall, some say this was actually the theater at Caesarea, with great pomp, with all the officers and local officials gathered. I like to picture Paul making his defense in the great theater, for I have been there. (I will attach a photo – photo 1 is our group gathering at the theater; photo 2 is Bishop Carter speaking there, where Paul might have spoken.)

Everyone is present; the stage is set, and they send for Paul.

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