“About eight or ten days later, Festus returned to Caesarea. The next morning he took his place in the courtroom and had Paul brought in. The minute he walked in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem were all over him, hurling the most extreme accusations, none of which they could prove.

“Then Paul took the stand and said simply, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong against the Jewish religion, or the Temple, or Caesar. Period!’

“Festus, though, wanted to get on the good side of the Jews and so said, ‘How would you like to go up to Jerusalem, and let me conduct your trial there?'” Acts 25:6-9 (The Message).

Oh no! Not another crowd-pleaser! Paul might have had high hopes that Festus would give him justice, but he was turning out no better than Felix.

What was it with these Roman governors? Was it their fear of the volatile Jews who could stir up a riot in a flash that kept them from doing the right thing? Was there anything in it for them other than their maintaining their position by keeping the peace in Israel? They all seem to have been tarred with the same brush.

Festus was giving him the option of being tried in Jerusalem instead of in Caesarea when, a few days before he had insisted that Paul remain in Caesarea where he, Festus had jurisdiction over Paul. Jerusalem was the turf of the Jewish hierarchy where they had power and influence. Paul knew that at all costs he must stay away from Jerusalem.

He had been whisked out of Jerusalem in the dead of night because his life was in danger there, and now Festus wanted to send him back into enemy territory? Paul was well aware of Festus’ strategy. Sacrifice Paul for peace so that Festus could look like a good governor in the eyes of Rome. As long as there was no trouble in this little colony, internal issues did not matter, especially petty religious ones!

“Paul answered, ‘I’m standing at this moment before Caesar’s bar of justice, where I have a perfect right to stand. And I’m going to keep standing here. I’ve done nothing wrong to the Jews, and you know it as well as I do. If I’ve committed a crime and deserve death, name the day. I can face it. But if there’s nothing to their accusations — and you know there isn’t — nobody can force me to go along with their nonsense. We’ve fooled around long enough. I appeal to Caesar.’

“Festus huddled with his advisors briefly and then gave his verdict: ‘You’ve appealed to Caesar; you’ll go to Caesar!” Acts 25:10-12 (The Message).

Paul held the trump card. As a Roman citizen he had the right to a fair trial before Caesar. If Festus did not have the guts to do the right thing, he was certainly not going to subject himself to any more abuse from the Jews. It was with an air of contempt that he made his decision. Festus was too lily-livered to stand up to the Jews. He, Paul, was not going to be a pawn to be pushed around on their little chessboard. Caesar was his only option to get out of checkmate.

That pulled the rug from under Festus’ feet! He was obligated to grant Paul his request. This was a legally binding appeal and once granted, like the law of the Medes and Persians, it could not be changed. Paul was actively co-operating with God’s plan to move him to Rome. Did the penny drop for him at that moment? Did he have a flash of understanding, remembering the assurance from the Lord Himself that he was on his way to Rome in spite of all the carry-on in Jerusalem?

Slowly but surely God’s plan was coming together. Throughout all the seemingly impossible circumstances, and the long drawn-out process, Paul was exactly where and when God wanted him, putting all the structures in place to plant His son right in the palace of Caesar himself. There’s no getting away from it — God is smart.

Luella Campbell

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