July 7, 2018
PAUL’S DEFENSE MARKED BY POMP AND PROMINENCE
Porcius Festus was the new Roman governor over Judea. He replaced Felix who had been recalled to Rome by Nero. As a result, Festus inherited the case against the apostle Paul, which Felix had delayed, hoping for a bribe. Historians agree, that overall, Festus was a better governor than Felix, who was actually recalled because of his poor administration. Yet, even Festus was easily wooed by the Jewish leaders who wanted Paul’s trial moved to Jerusalem, so they could kill him along the way. Festus was ready to move the trial from Caesarea to Jerusalem as a favor to the Jewish leaders, but Paul appealed to Caesar. Festus had to honor Paul’s request because of his Roman citizenship.
The next day after the trial, Festus received King Agrippa II and his sister, Bernice, who came to pay their respects to the new governor. Agrippa II, whose birth name was Marcus Julius Agrippa, was raised and educated in Rome, while his father, King Herod Agrippa I, reigned in Judea. It was his father who had beheaded the apostle James. Coincidently, Agrippa’s sister, Drusilla, was the wife of the previous governor, Felix. So, when Festus began to talk about the unusual case concerning a man named Paul that Felix had left to him, Agrippa was, no doubt, fully aware. When Agrippa asked to hear Paul for himself, Festus happily agreed.
Can you visualize the scene where the auditorium is arrayed in the banners of Rome as trumpets sound announcing the arrival of King Agrippa and his sister, Bernice? Can you see all the Roman military officers decked out in their dress uniforms, gathered there at the order of Governor Felix, along with the prominent Jewish leaders of the region who had received his invitation? Can you see the apostle Paul being led in to face this illustrious crowd, dressed in a plain robe with chains on his wrists?
The apostle Paul was given this amazing opportunity to give his testimony and preach about the resurrected Jesus to all the pomp and prominence of the region. And preach he did.