Acts Wednesday: Chapter 25, Out With Felix, in With Festus


Though Luke transitioned between Paul’s time with Felix to Paul’s time with Festus in only a sentence, it represented a long time in Paul’s life,


After two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and since he wanted to grant the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.

Acts 24:27 (NRSV)

Imprisoned for two long years. Paul was able to have friends come and go, to take care of his needs, to bring him news and to take his news to others, but effectively, Paul had had to let go of his missions ministry.

Now a new governor had been appointed to Judea, as Felix was being recalled by Nero under a cloud of suspicion for his cruel heavy-handedness in governing his proconsulate.

Proconsul Porcius Festus
StAnselm / Public domain

Proconsul Porcius Festus began his tenure in Judea probably around the fifth year of Emperor Nero’s reign, 59 A.D., based on coins Festus minted soon after he arrived. He inherited the complications and disputes Felix had left behind, including civic privileges that had been created for the Judean inhabitants which were hotly disputed by the Syrian inhabitants. Felix had silenced the Judeans by military force, and the Syrian faction went to Rome with their complaint, resulting in Felix’s recall.

Festus had also found himself having to adjudicate a protracted conflict between King Agrippa II and the temple priests in Jerusalem, regarding the wall they had erected on the temple mount to block the view into the temple courtyard from Agrippa’s palace.


Coin of Porcius Festus. Bronze prutah minted by Porcius Festus.
Obverse: Greek letters NEP WNO C (Nero) in wreath tied at the bottom with an X.
Reverse: Greek letters KAICAPOC (Caesar) and date LE (year 5 = 58/59 A.D), palm branch.
[Atzmonit at Hebrew Wikipedia. The pictures of coins are Itamar. Later version(s) were uploaded by Alorkezas at en.wikipedia / Public domain]

Unfortunately, Proconsul Porcius Festus, though considered a fair and just governor, and well-liked, was also unable to resolve these issues. Rivalries continued to build up into roiling resentment and seething anger that would eventually boil over into the Judean Rebellion of 66 A.D.

Happily, the new proconsul’s approach to his post was pretty much the opposite of Felix’s. Governor Festus took immediate charge, unwilling to delay decisions. As Luke reported,


Three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem where the chief priests and the leaders of the Jews gave him a report against Paul.

Acts 25:1-2 (NRSV)

The Sanhedrin had resurrected the plan to assassinate Paul en route from Caesarea to Jerusalem, if only they could convince their new—and presumably unsuspecting—proconsul to release Paul into their own recognizance. In a compromise meant to curry favor, Festus offered to have a delegation from the Sanhedrin accompany him to Caesarea to retry Paul’s suit.

The following day, Festus took his seat on the tribunal, surely having little idea of the fiasco about to unfold before him.

Of course, just as had been the case two years previously, no charge could be proven.

Unfortunately, Governor Festus allowed his desire to do the Jews a favor to stand in the way of his making a fair judgment regarding Paul. Yet, Instead of panicking, Paul saw this crisis as his opportunity.


Jesus had already given Paul insight into his destiny, a gift few of us receive with such clarity.


Most of us have asked the air, at least once in our lives, Why am I here, anyway? And I’m sure you’ve heard people say everybody is special. Well, and it is true that some people really are special – famous people, powerful people, rich people, Nobel prize winning people.

But what about regular people?

What about people like you and me? Are we special? What are we here, for?

The stock Christian answer is that you and I are special because we have been made in the image of God, and our purpose in life is to love and enjoy God. That is a good, solid answer.

But.

Deep down, don’t you still wonder, sometimes, why you, personally, are here, and what it is that makes you special . . if anything?

Here is how one author answered that question: [1]

No matter how many bad things have happened in our lives, no matter how much suffering we’ve had to endure, no matter how many problems we’ve got stacked up right now, no matter how low of an opinion we have about ourselves, you and I need to see this: God formed us in love, and brought us into this world as an act of triumph.

Throughout scripture it’s clear that God had each person in mind even before the creation of the world. He planned you and me and chose us, personally, before the world began. God said no to all those other hundreds of millions of potential people so He could have you and me instead. And when He said yes to us, He said yes to everything about us. Our personalities, the circumstances of our lives, our looks . . . everything.

You and I are handpicked.

The question is, why? 

Because God has a particular mission for each of us. There is something waiting for us that only we can accomplish. God designed us for this very purpose. It could be something big. Or small. Something splashy. Or hidden. It could be someone you or I will influence. It could be one dramatic event, or it could be a long series of events. Whatever it is, it will be profoundly important to the life of this world, and fulfilling to you and me, as well.

This is not about realizing our dreams. My dream and God’s destiny for me may not be the same thing. But God knows the deepest desires of our hearts. He knows what will give us the greatest pleasure and the most profound happiness. So, as you and I dream and hope and plan, remember that God has something He has planned for us since before the beginning of time.

God showed Paul his destiny one step at a time. The process itself shaped him, and made him ready for his destiny. God molded Paul into the person he needed to be to fulfill what the Lord had planned for him.

As Paul leaned into his calling as a servant of the Lord, above all else, he began to see situations differently.

  • When embroiled in confrontation, Paul may have prayed, “What is God’s will for me in this? How will I glorify Him and influence this person for good?
  • During frightening situations, Paul must have prayed, “What is God’s mission for me in this?  How will I magnify His name?” 
  • When he felt labored and burdened, Paul undoubtedly prayed, “What important thing has God hidden here for me, as I fulfill His purposes?” 

He had languished in Caesarea long enough. He now would request a hearing in Rome, where he could give his testimony and share the gospel with even the mighty emperor of the known world. “I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you very well know,” Paul boldly stated to the Proconsul. “Now if I am in the wrong and have committed something for which I deserve to die, I am not trying to escape death; but if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can turn me over to them.”

Perhaps Paul, well-practiced in oratory and rhetoric, paused for emphasis. I imagine him looking slowly into the faces of each of his accusers, then bringing his gaze up to Festus, seated on the tribunal. With dignity and power, he drew breath and said,

I appeal to the emperor.”

I’m sure it took the governor aback. As a Roman citizen, Paul had exercised his inalienable right to appeal to the Caesar, and there was little Festus would be able to do about it, now. However, appealing to the emperor Nero would not be an easy victory for Paul, especially coming from Judea, and even more especially as he stood vehemently accused by the region’s religious ruling authorities.

Nevertheless,


Then Festus, after he had conferred with his council, replied, “You have appealed to the emperor; to the emperor you will go.”

Acts 25:12 (NRSV)

[1] These thoughts are taken from the book Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To by Anthony DeStefano


[Nero, römischer Kaiser | Pycril, Public Domain]

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