Online Bible Commentary
Acts 25: 13 And after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus. 14 When they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying: "There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix, 15 about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, when I was in Jerusalem, asking for a judgment against him. 16 To them I answered, 'It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.' 17 Therefore when they had come together, without any delay, the next day I sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed, 19 but had some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. 20 And because I was uncertain of such questions, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. 21 But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar." (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, King Agrippa has come to Caesarea to greet the new governor, Festus, who has only been in office a short time (v. 13a). This was Herod Agrippa II, who was elevated to the kingship of some Roman territories by Emperor Claudius in 54 A.D. Emperor Nero succeeded Claudius that same year, and the following year expanded Agrippa’s reign to encompass northern Galilee.
Agrippa is accompanied to Caesarea by his mistress, and sister, Bernice (v. 13b). This relationship caused much unrest in Rome and, finally, Agrippa sent Bernice away.
Agrippa was close friends with the Jewish historian Josephus. Also, Agrippa was in charge of appointing Jewish high priests, so it was a smart move for Festus to get him involved with the Jews’ case against Paul.
Therefore, after “many days”, Festus brings Paul’s case to the attention of Agrippa (v. 14a). He describes Paul as “a prisoner” left by Felix against whom the Jews want a judgment (vv. 14-15).
Festus continues by explaining that his answer to the Jews was that Paul, as a Roman citizen, had the right to face his accusers (v. 16). He explains that he held the trial “without any delay, the next day”, but the Jews were unable to prove their accusations (vv. 17-18). All that the Jews were able to present were “some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive” (v. 19).
Festus explains that, since he was not familiar with the Jewish customs and laws, he asked if Paul would agree to move the trial to Jerusalem (v. 20). Festus omits the fact that the Jews were requesting the move of the trial and that the Jews had already plotted to ambush and kill Paul on the way to a previous trial scheduled in Jerusalem. This plot was the reason why Paul was sent by the Roman commander in Jerusalem to Caesarea in the first place. Paul knew that he would be killed in Jerusalem and so he rejected the change of venue.
Festus completes his description of Paul’s situation by stating to Agrippa “But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar" (v. 21). “Augustus” was the first Roman emperor, so Festus is saying that Paul appealed for a trial by emperor. Also, Roman emperors adopted the title “Caesar” in tribute to Julius Caesar. So, Paul’s appeal was that he be tried before the current emperor, Nero.
Paul has appealed to the most powerful man in the world, Emperor Nero. Nero is not a fan of Christianity so it is doubtful that Paul will get a fair trial. Paul is not guilty of anything, but he will suffer greatly in the coming years.
Jesus also was not guilty of anything, and he also suffered greatly. He suffered a painful death on the cross so that you and I could have our sins forgiven and enjoy eternal life in Heaven. He loves us that much, even in our sins.