We saw yesterday that Paul was given himself a chance to defend himself in front of two powerful men, King Agrippa and his local ruler, Festus. He started in an unusual way, describing his story of coming to know Jesus, and how that transformed his life. He was preaching the very message that got him in trouble in the first place, rather than apologizing for it, or trying to save himself. Why? We’ll see as we read the rest of the story today: “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,  but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.  For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.  To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass:  that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”  And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.”  But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.  For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.  King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.”  And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”  And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”  Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them.  And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.”  And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (Acts 26:19-32 ESV)
I just love Paul’s boldness. He’s been in trouble with crowds and authorities everywhere he’s been. Now he’s finally got an audience with a powerful ruler, and instead of using it to excuse himself and lay low, or to buy his protection, he tries to convert the King!
This is like getting an audience with the Prime Minister, and not using the time to get an autograph, a selfie, or promote your favourite causes, instead using the time to simply share the good news of Jesus with him.
What would Agrippa have learned? The sincerity of Paul’s beliefs, first of all. He’s taking a huge risk, and it seems to be for the King’s benefit. He’s even bold enough to directly name and question Agrippa – presuming to know what he’s thinking by saying “I know that you believe.” Wow.
Festus has seen the folly in all this, and tries to get Paul to back down from trying to convert a Roman ruler to Christianity, but Paul plows ahead without showing any deference to this powerful man.
He seems to consider himself their equal – with something valuable to offer the King – rather than a cowering inferior.
I love how Paul concludes. He points out that he’s preaching good and positive things, and is pretty sure Agrippa has heard that now. Yet he finds himself in chains, even as a Roman citizen, because of how people are threatened by this message about Jesus. The rulers see the ridiculousness of this, and even say he could be set free, if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar and taken that decision out of their hands.
Question: Why do you think Paul appealed to Caesar, when this could have been dealt with locally?
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