Appeal to Caesar
25:1 Three days after his arrival in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem 2 where the chief priests and Jewish leaders presented him their formal charges against Paul. They asked him 3 as a favor to have him sent to Jerusalem, for they were plotting to kill him along the way. 4 Festus replied that Paul was being held in custody in Caesarea and that he himself would be returning there shortly. 5 He said, “Let your authorities come down with me, and if this man has done something improper, let them accuse him.” 6
After spending no more than eight or ten days with them, he went down to Caesarea, and on the following day took his seat on the tribunal and ordered that Paul be brought in. 7 When he appeared, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem surrounded him and brought many serious charges against him, which they were unable to prove. 8 In defending himself Paul said, “I have committed no crime either against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” 9 Then Festus, wishing to ingratiate himself with the Jews, said to Paul in reply, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there stand trial before me on these charges?” 10
Paul answered, “I am standing before the tribunal of Caesar; this is where I should be tried. I have committed no crime against the Jews, as you very well know. 11 If I have committed a crime or done anything deserving death, I do not seek to escape the death penalty; but if there is no substance to the charges they are bringing against me, then no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, after conferring with his council, replied, “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go.” 13
Paul before King Agrippa
When a few days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea on a visit to Festus. 14 Since they spent several days there, Festus referred Paul’s case to the king, saying, “There is a man here left in custody by Felix. 15 When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation. 16 I answered them that it was not Roman practice to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge. 17
So when (they) came together here, I made no delay; the next day I took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 His accusers stood around him, but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected. 19 Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive. 20 Since I was at a loss how to investigate this controversy, I asked if he were willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these charges. 21 And when Paul appealed that he be held in custody for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.” 22
Agrippa said to Festus, “I too should like to hear this man.” He replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.” 23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great ceremony and entered the audience hall in the company of cohort commanders and the prominent men of the city and, by command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all you here present with us, look at this man about whom the whole Jewish populace petitioned me here and in Jerusalem, clamoring that he should live no longer. 25 I found, however, that he had done nothing deserving death, and so when he appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. 26 But I have nothing definite to write about him to our sovereign; therefore I have brought him before all of you, and particularly before you, King Agrippa, so that I may have something to write as a result of this investigation. 27 For it seems senseless to me to send up a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.”
King Agrippa Hears Paul
26:1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may now speak on your own behalf.” So Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense. 2 “I count myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am to defend myself before you today against all the charges made against me by the Jews, 3 especially since you are an expert in all the Jewish customs and controversies. And therefore I beg you to listen patiently. 4 My manner of living from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my people and in Jerusalem, all (the) Jews know. 5 They have known about me from the start, if they are willing to testify, that I have lived my life as a Pharisee, the strictest party of our religion. 6
But now I am standing trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors. 7 Our twelve tribes hope to attain to that promise as they fervently worship God day and night; and on account of this hope I am accused by Jews, O king. 8 Why is it thought unbelievable among you that God raises the dead? 9 I myself once thought that I had to do many things against the name of Jesus the Nazorean, 10 and I did so in Jerusalem. I imprisoned many of the holy ones with the authorization I received from the chief priests, and when they were to be put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 Many times, in synagogue after synagogue, I punished them in an attempt to force them to blaspheme; I was so enraged against them that I pursued them even to foreign cities. 12
“On one such occasion I was traveling to Damascus with the authorization and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, along the way, O king, I saw a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my traveling companions. 14 We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 Get up now, and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness of what you have seen (of me) and what you will be shown. 17 I shall deliver you from this people and from the Gentiles to whom I send you, 18 to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been consecrated by faith in me.’ 19
“And so, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. 20 On the contrary, first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem and throughout the whole country of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached the need to repent and turn to God, and to do works giving evidence of repentance. 21 That is why the Jews seized me (when I was) in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 But I have enjoyed God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here testifying to small and great alike, saying nothing different from what the prophets and Moses foretold, 23 that the Messiah must suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” 24
Reactions to Paul’s Speech
While Paul was so speaking in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “You are mad, Paul; much learning is driving you mad.” 25 But Paul replied, “I am not mad, most excellent Festus; I am speaking words of truth and reason. 26 The king knows about these matters and to him I speak boldly, for I cannot believe that (any) of this has escaped his notice; this was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.” 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You will soon persuade me to play the Christian.” 29 Paul replied, “I would pray to God that sooner or later not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am except for these chains.” 30 Then the king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and the others who sat with them. 31 And after they had withdrawn they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing (at all) that deserves death or imprisonment.” 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Departure for Rome
27:1 When it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they handed Paul and some other prisoners over to a centurion named Julius of the Cohort Augusta. 2 We went on board a ship from Adramyttium bound for ports in the province of Asia and set sail. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us. 3 On the following day we put in at Sidon where Julius was kind enough to allow Paul to visit his friends who took care of him. 4 From there we put out to sea and sailed around the sheltered side of Cyprus because of the headwinds, 5 and crossing the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia we came to Myra in Lycia.
Storm and Shipwreck
6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship that was sailing to Italy and put us on board. 7 For many days we made little headway, arriving at Cnidus only with difficulty, and because the wind would not permit us to continue our course we sailed for the sheltered side of Crete off Salmone. 8 We sailed past it with difficulty and reached a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea. 9 Much time had now passed and sailing had become hazardous because the time of the fast had already gone by, so Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that this voyage will result in severe damage and heavy loss not only to the cargo and the ship, but also to our lives.” 11 The centurion, however, paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12
Since the harbor was unfavorably situated for spending the winter, the majority planned to put out to sea from there in the hope of reaching Phoenix, a port in Crete facing west-northwest, there to spend the winter. 13 A south wind blew gently, and thinking they had attained their objective, they weighed anchor and sailed along close to the coast of Crete. 14 Before long an offshore wind of hurricane force called a “Northeaster” struck. 15 Since the ship was caught up in it and could not head into the wind we gave way and let ourselves be driven. 16 We passed along the sheltered side of an island named Cauda and managed only with difficulty to get the dinghy under control. 17 They hoisted it aboard, then used cables to undergird the ship. Because of their fear that they would run aground on the shoal of Syrtis, they lowered the drift anchor and were carried along in this way. 18
We were being pounded by the storm so violently that the next day they jettisoned some cargo, 19 and on the third day with their own hands they threw even the ship’s tackle overboard. 20 Neither the sun nor the stars were visible for many days, and no small storm raged. Finally, all hope of our surviving was taken away. 21 When many would no longer eat, Paul stood among them and said, “Men, you should have taken my advice and not have set sail from Crete and you would have avoided this disastrous loss. 22 I urge you now to keep up your courage; not one of you will be lost, only the ship. 23 For last night an angel of the God to whom (I) belong and whom I serve stood by me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You are destined to stand before Caesar; and behold, for your sake, God has granted safety to all who are sailing with you.’ 25 Therefore, keep up your courage, men; I trust in God that it will turn out as I have been told. 26 We are destined to run aground on some island.” 27
On the fourteenth night, as we were still being driven about on the Adriatic Sea, toward midnight the sailors began to suspect that they were nearing land. 28 They took soundings and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on, they again took soundings and found fifteen fathoms. 29 Fearing that we would run aground on a rocky coast, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. 30 The sailors then tried to abandon ship; they lowered the dinghy to the sea on the pretext of going to lay out anchors from the bow. 31 But Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes of the dinghy and set it adrift. 33
Until the day began to dawn, Paul kept urging all to take some food. He said, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been waiting, going hungry and eating nothing. 34 I urge you, therefore, to take some food; it will help you survive. Not a hair of the head of anyone of you will be lost.” 35 When he said this, he took bread, gave thanks to God in front of them all, broke it, and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged, and took some food themselves. 37 In all, there were two hundred seventy-six of us on the ship. 38 After they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea. 39
When day came they did not recognize the land, but made out a bay with a beach. They planned to run the ship ashore on it, if they could. 40 So they cast off the anchors and abandoned them to the sea, and at the same time they unfastened the lines of the rudders, and hoisting the foresail into the wind, they made for the beach. 41 But they struck a sandbar and ran the ship aground. The bow was wedged in and could not be moved, but the stern began to break up under the pounding (of the waves). 42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners so that none might swim away and escape, 43 but the centurion wanted to save Paul and so kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to the shore, 44 and then the rest, some on planks, others on debris from the ship. In this way, all reached shore safely.
Winter in Malta
28:1 Once we had reached safety we learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The natives showed us extraordinary hospitality; they lit a fire and welcomed all of us because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 Paul had gathered a bundle of brushwood and was putting it on the fire when a viper, escaping from the heat, fastened on his hand. 4 When the natives saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “This man must certainly be a murderer; though he escaped the sea, Justice has not let him remain alive.” 5 But he shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were expecting him to swell up or suddenly to fall down dead but, after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god. 7
In the vicinity of that place were lands belonging to a man named Publius, the chief of the island. He welcomed us and received us cordially as his guests for three days. 8 It so happened that the father of Publius was sick with a fever and dysentery. Paul visited him and, after praying, laid his hands on him and healed him. 9 After this had taken place, the rest of the sick on the island came to Paul and were cured. 10 They paid us great honor and when we eventually set sail they brought us the provisions we needed. 11
Arrival in Rome
Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the Dioscuri as its figurehead. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days, 13 and from there we sailed round the coast and arrived at Rhegium. After a day, a south wind came up and in two days we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and were urged to stay with them for seven days. And thus we came to Rome. 15 The brothers from there heard about us and came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul gave thanks to God and took courage. 16 When he entered Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him. 17
Testimony to Jews in Rome
Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had gathered he said to them, “My brothers, although I had done nothing against our people or our ancestral customs, I was handed over to the Romans as a prisoner from Jerusalem. 18 After trying my case the Romans wanted to release me, because they found nothing against me deserving the death penalty. 19 But when the Jews objected, I was obliged to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no accusation to make against my own nation. 20 This is the reason, then, I have requested to see you and to speak with you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains.” 21
They answered him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, nor has any of the brothers arrived with a damaging report or rumor about you. 22 But we should like to hear you present your views, for we know that this sect is denounced everywhere.” 23 So they arranged a day with him and came to his lodgings in great numbers. From early morning until evening, he expounded his position to them, bearing witness to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus from the law of Moses and the prophets. 24 Some were convinced by what he had said, while others did not believe. 25
Without reaching any agreement among themselves they began to leave; then Paul made one final statement. “Well did the holy Spirit speak to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah, saying: 26 ‘Go to this people and say: You shall indeed hear but not understand. You shall indeed look but never see. 27 Gross is the heart of this people; they will not hear with their ears; they have closed their eyes, so they may not see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’ 28 Let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” 29 30 He remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, 31 and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
This talk is by Karen Wenzel
Intrigue, deceit, danger, suspense, and more! Faith and hope in every situation.
Both nature itself as well as believers and non-believers are directed by the Holy Spirit in the furtherance of God’s plan.
Festus begins his rule and immediately is challenged by the Jews and the “Paul problem”. Hearing is held in Caesaria. From persecutor to persecuted. Festus was relieved. Needed a list of charges to send him off with.
King Herod Agrippa and wife Bernice arrive. Chapters 25 and 26 recorded their interaction with Paul. He makes a succinct case – a faithful Jew, follower of Jesus. Verdict – innocent. 3 times as with Jesus.
Isaiah 49:6: “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Paul goes off to Rome.
Shipwreck – Luke’s Jonah story.
Jonah and Paul:
- Both sent by God to the Gentiles
- Jonah disobeyed; Paul obeyed.
- Jonah thought he knew better than God; Paul believed the Father knew best
- God taught Jonah a lesson; God teaches salvation lessons through Paul
Paul leads, exhorts, blesses on ship. All come to trust him and are saved. Paul re-enacts Jesus’ final meal. “He took bread, gave thanks to God in front of them all, broke it, and began to eat.” Acts 27:35
Souls adrift on a mastless boat – a microcosm of our dependence on God
Swiss Family Robinson comparison.
What might we pass on to our families / children as lessons from Acts?
5 years in prison as part of God’s plan? Paul as hyperactive even ADHD?
The physical journey made possible the spiritual journey along the way.
Acts 28:16,30 “He remained for two full years in his lodgings … was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.”
While Paul waited on God for the next step, he wrote to others / churches
Paul’s letters from prison:
Relationship with his soldier guard responsible for the description:
“Put on the armor of God … Stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate .. Hold faith as a shield … Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.” Eph. 6:11, 13-14, 16-17
“This man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites.” Acts 9:15
The end doesn’t get delivered in the book. Luke as a genius?
Purpose of Luke’s writing without resolution:
- Luke’s work is about the Apostles’ acts. Not lives. Proclamation to the world
- Luke stops when Paul reaches Rome.
- This adventure of spreading the Good News would not end.
Luke 24:47 NRSV “That repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.”
Acts 1:8: You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
This work remains for us to continue. Salvation for all is still God’s plan.
Phase 1: Luke 1-3 Mary and Zechariah’s obedience to God
Phase 2: Luke 4-24 Jesus’ life and teaching, example
Phase 3: Acts Peter, Paul and other apostles used by the HS
Phase 4: Our faith story, began when Luke stopped writing
“I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy … Indeed, upon my servant and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit … and they shall prophesy.” Acts 2:17-18
Kurz S.J. William S. Acts of the Apostles. Part of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture Peter Williamson and Mary Healy Series Editors. (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2012).
Wall, Robert W. Introduction, Commentary and Reflections on the Book of Acts. Volume X of the New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes edited by Leander Keck, Senior New Testament Editor. (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2002).
Appeal to Caesar
Kurz p. 349: “After arriving in the province about AD59, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. Not even Paul’s two-year imprisonment had calmed the anger of the Jewish authorities, who immediately press their formal charges against Paul before the new governor. They even attempt the same plot that some unsuccessfully tried two years before under Felix (Acts 23:12-21), asking Festus to send Paul to Jerusalem so they can ambush him en route. Festus, perhaps knowing of the previous conspiracy, wisely replies that Paul will remain in the governor’s headquarters in Caesarea. He invites the Jewish authorities to bring their charges against Paul there.”
It is notable that the churches of Jerusalem and Caesarea are not mentioned as being vigorous, or even interested, in assisting Paul. Did they, or did they not, accept Paul fully? Wall p. 324: “Contemporary Acts criticism has interpreted Luke’s silence on the role of the Judean or Caesarian churches as a lack of support. However, the intense concern of the religious establishment in Jerusalem regarding Paul’s influence in Palestine during his two years of enforced exile, to the extent that these pious men would use subterfuge to murder him, can be explained only if the Jerusalem church continued to champion his mission.”
Wall p. 325: “Paul’s decision triggers a series of events that results in his mission to Rome according to God’s plan, and in some significant sense it is therefore essential to the plotline of Acts.”
Kurz p. 350: “An appeal to Caesar was a costly business. The appellant would personally have to undertake the costs of travel to Rome, the living costs while there, and perhaps the costs of actually litigating the case, including securing witness. But in Paul’s case, it is better than the alternative.” In theory our system of criminal justice is more fair – but the discrepancy in charges, bail, convictions, sentences, etc. between rich and poor would suggest otherwise.
Paul before King Agrippa
Wall p. 329: “Because of their different backgrounds – Festus is a pagan and Agrippa and Bernice are secular Jews – Festus quickly turns to them for help in settling the long-standing “Paul Problem”.”
Wall p. 329: “Festus’s rehearsal makes Luke’s point: There is no evidence to support the Jewish case against Paul, in particular the charge of sedition to which Festus could render Rome’s verdict. He rightly concludes that “they had certain points of disagreement with him about their own religion, devolving into an intramural squabble over contested claims ‘about a certain Jesus.’”
Kurz p. 354: “In another parallel with Jesus’ passion, the Roman governor Festus enlists Herod Agrippa’s input concerning Paul, just as Pilate had sought Herod Antipas’s opinion regarding Jesus (Luke 23:6-12).”
Wall p. 330: “Festus’s request for Agrippa’s involvement is surely politically motivated and reflects the insecurity of a new administration. He wishes to please his Jewish constituents by finding Paul guilty but cannot do so under Roman law; he must, therefore, depend on Agrippa either to find some guilt in Paul (not likely) or to be the one to declare him innocent and take the political heat for doing so upon himself.”
King Agrippa Hears Paul
Paul is no longer in legal jeopardy – his appeal to Caesar brought all legal proceedings to an end. His speech, while in a legal defense format, is intended by Luke to establish once and for all for the readers that Paul embodies the mission of the church and of God himself.
Paul notes that in his days as a persecutor of the Way he did not believe in a resurrected messiah as part of Jewish tradition – but he DID, as a Pharisee, believe in the general / future resurrection of all the dead.
Paul reveals casting votes against believers in addition to Stephen (for the death penalty).
“It is hard for you to kick against the goad.” (v. 14 ) Wall p. 337: “A kentron is a stick with a sharpened point used as a variety of cattle prod to goad an animal in the right direction. For Paul to ‘kick against the goads’ is to resist God’s goading.”
Reactions to Paul’s Speech
Wall p. 341: “Rome’s more favorable verdict toward Paul (in the persons of Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice), which confirms his innocence, contributes to the general impression that Rome is the city of his destiny.”
Departure for Rome
Paul was an experienced traveler and therefore his opinion should have had at least some weight – but it did not persuade enough others. The others vote to ‘live dangerously’ and choose to continue the journey despite the increasing risk due to the approaching arrival of winter.
Storm and Shipwreck
Wall p. 345: “The detailed references found in this chapter to nautical terminology, complete with documentation of weather patterns and ports of call, provide the details of a realistic drama in which Paul’s prophetic vocation is more fully exemplified in relation to Gentiles.”
The first boat was fit only to sail along the coast on short journeys. Therefore passage needed to be booked on a second, more open-sea worthy vessel.
Wall p. 346: The Fast = the Day of Atonement (in late September / early October).
It is decided not to continue with Rome as the goal but a better harbor for the winter – Phoenix. (50 miles away from Fair Havens on Crete is best guess).
Fair Havens was a harbor inlet on the southern side of Crete. Phoenix was a small harbor on the west / northwests side of the island.
At first all goes well, but once they round a part of the island the winds from the northeast take hold of the ship and drive them out into the open sea and into the storms
With regard to some sailors hoping to abandon the ship in the lifeboats Wall notes on Page 352: only by staying with Paul, who is destined to get to Rome by God, can the people on the ship be saved. Separated from him (God) they cannot be saved. “What appears to be a lifeboat is, in fact, the opposite.” Strong metaphor for the church.
Winter in Malta
Wall p. 355: “Surviving a stormy sea and shipwreck, Paul also shrugs off a viper’s bite in further demonstration that God is protecting him for Rome.”
Hospitality greatly valued in ancient world and in Palestine. The people of Malta, a Roman colony, offer excellent hospitality to Paul and companions.
Arrival in Rome
Paul’s welcome in Rome by Christians there is warm. Wall notes p. 357: “This evocative image of a church’s festive welcome depicts Paul as an important person and is evocative of Jesus’ entrance into the city of his destiny on Palm Sunday. The stage is set for an important ministry in this leading city of Paul’s world.”
Testimony to Jews in Rome
Wall p. 361: “The gospel of God is presented first to the Jews with clarity and conviction but with mixed results. Yet we should not suppose that Paul’s mission to the Jews of Rome is a complete failure, or that the Jewish rejection of the gospel explains his success among Gentiles. The plain meaning of this text is that some Jews are convinced by Paul and become believers; and their response to his ministry in Rome is hardly hostile in any case.”