Online Bible Commentary
To Caesar You Shall Go
Acts 25:1 Now when Festus had come to the province, after three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2 Then the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they petitioned him, 3 asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem--while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him. 4 But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly. 5 "Therefore," he said, "let those who have authority among you go down with me and accuse this man, to see if there is any fault in him." 6 And when he had remained among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day, sitting on the judgment seat, he commanded Paul to be brought. 7 When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove, 8 while he answered for himself, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all." 9 But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?" 10 So Paul said, "I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. 11 For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar." 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, "You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!" (NKJV)
The time is 59 A.D. Paul has been kept in confinement by the governor in Caesarea for two years. Caesarea was the political center for the Roman province of Syria, of which Judea was a part.
Paul is being held in light chains in Herod’s Palace. He has not been found guilty of any crimes, to the dismay of the Jews in Jerusalem who want him dead for promoting Christianity.
Felix was the governor of Syria from 53 to 59 A.D., when the Roman Emperor Nero replaced him with Porcius Festus. Festus died in office in 62 A.D.
In this passage, Festus has just taken office, “three days” earlier (v. 1a). He wants to familiarize himself with Paul’s case, which was dumped on him by Felix, so he goes to Jerusalem to talk to Paul’s accusers (v. 1b).
Festus meets with “the high priest and the chief men of the Jews’, the members of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin (v. 2). The Jews inform Festus of the bogus charges against Paul and then ask for Paul to be returned to Jerusalem to be tried under Jewish law (vv. 2b-3a). However, their real plan is to ambush and kill Paul on the way to Jerusalem (v. 3b).
Festus, perhaps having heard of a previous plot to ambush and kill Paul, denies the request of the Jews and calls for them to come to Caesarea to present their charges against Paul (vv. 4-5). Festus then stays in Jerusalem for ten days, perhaps wanting to become more familiar with Jewish laws and customs (v. 6a).
Festus then returns to Caesarea and Paul’s trial begins the next day (v. 6b). This is Paul’s second trial on the same charges, having been tried by Felix some two years earlier. Felix never ruled on that trial.
Now, in this second trial, the Jews bring their charges, without any proof (v. 7). Since nothing has been proven all Paul has to do is to answer that he is innocent of any charges against the Jews, the temple, or “Caesar” (v. 8). The reference to “Caesar” is to the Roman Empire which was set into motion by Julius Caesar before he was assassinated in 44 B.C.
Then Festus, “wanting to do the Jews a favor”, asks Paul if he would agree to move the trial to Jerusalem, with Festus still presiding (v. 9). Paul, declining the request, answers that he is properly being tried before the Roman Empire, since it was obvious to him and Festus that he is innocent of any charges brought by the Jews (v. 10).
Paul then continues his defense by stating “For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar", which he had a right to do as a Roman citizen (v. 11). Festus then consults with the Sanhedrin, likely ruling that they have not proven their case, and grants Paul’s request to be tried in Rome by answering "You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!”, perhaps as a consolation to the Jews (v. 12).
It is obvious that there is no proof of Paul’s guilt. However, Jewish persecution has placed him in great danger. Even though it is God’s plan for Paul to minister in Rome, it seems unfair that he should have to go as a prisoner.
But, then again, life is unfair for all of us. Bad things do happen to good people. The good news is that Christians have Jesus on their side. We know that we will win in the end.
This life can be hard but we are just passing through. Our final destination is Heaven, where we will be rewarded for our faithfulness to Jesus.