25:13 And after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus. 14 When they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying: “There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix, 15 about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, when I was in Jerusalem, asking for a judgment against him. 16 To them I answered, ‘It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.’ 17 Therefore when they had come together, without any delay, the next day I sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed, 19 but had some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. 20 And because I was uncertain of such questions, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. 21 But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar.”
22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I also would like to hear the man myself.”
“Tomorrow,” he said, “you shall hear him.”
I find this behind the scenes glimpse fascinating. Festus is not a bad guy, Clearly he is both confused and intrigued by Paul's case. He is also a humble man because he is admitting to his superior that he doesn't know what to do. Festus doesn't say he has never heard of Jesus but clearly doesn't know much about Him and has formed no strong opinion either way. Essentially from his perspective he has been dragged into a religious dispute about which he knows little and is unsure what to do.
What what happens next:
25:23 So the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and had entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at Festus’ command Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said: “King Agrippa and all the men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he was not fit to live any longer. 25 But when I found that he had committed nothing deserving of death, and that he himself had appealed to Augustus(Caesar), I decided to send him. 26 I have nothing certain to write to my lord concerning him. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him.”
Think about it, Paul spent two years sharing his faith with Felix and recently Felix has moved to a different place and position. Now Paul is sharing his story with Festus and now Festus has created the opportunity for his story to be told to King Agrippa in front of the entire 'who's who' of Caesarea in the auditorium. Can you see what God is doing? Just as he used Daniel to reach foreign king after foreign king with the story of the True God, so Paul is being used to reach a class that no ordinary person could reach. The Jews have actually helped the cause of the Gospel by attempting to get rid of Paul.
Speaking of the Jews I want to make two unflattering observations not to disparage them but to use their experience and mistakes as a lesson for us. First of all in their misplaced zeal to get rid of Paul they had to fabricate lies. They then had to present those lies to a public court, a court of "Gentiles", men who do not know the True God. In simpler terms instead of sharing good news with men who desperately need it, they are instead embarrassing themselves and shaming the Gospel by their display of foolishness. So pathetic was their "case" against Paul that Festus says "I need to send Paul to Caesar but I'm not even sure what to tell him the problem is." Festus is actually hoping that by having Paul speak to the assembly and Agrippa that it will give him something to work with as far as a letter to write to Caesar Augustus about the case. Let me put it in really simple terms. The Jews who should be an example to the Romans of a better way, are instead an incoherent embarrassment who have become a pain in the backside of Festus.
The reality is every Christian and every church is a witness. The world around you may know little or nothing of your religion but they are forming an opinion based on you. Their vague picture of God is being informed and shaped by their interactions with you.
Here is the second unflattering thing I want to point out. Don't forget that Paul came to Jerusalem fearing the Jews who believed in Jesus. See at this point the Jewish faith was divided. There were anti Jesus Jews or old school Jews and pro Jesus Jews or followers of the Way, what we now call Christians. It was the Christians who were hostile to him. While he was carrying the gospel around the world the church in Jerusalem was gossiping about how Paul has abandoned his Jewish roots entirely and was trashing the basic laws of their faith. Liars spread these rumors and they has spread like wildfire by church members more eager to talk than to think and investigate. By the time Paul returned he had become public enemy number one of the people who should have been his greatest supporters. Their misplaced zeal ended up putting Paul in prison and put them back in league with the old school Jews who had killed Jesus. Do you see what happened?!! The supposed followers of Jesus are now in league with the men who killed Jesus, and have their "guns" aimed at Paul, the greatest champion of the Way. All of it accomplished by liars and gossips - sins we don't even consider that serious. I? mean who doesn't talk about other people right? Who doesn't pass on information that may or may not be true?
Now a second Roman governor is involved, and a king, and soon Caesar, all of them trying to make sense of nonsense.
Meanwhile God is using it all to bring the Truth to the highest seats of Roman authority. Don't get me wrong in what I'm about to say because neither Felix nor Festus are perfect men, but it's pretty bad when the pagan rulers are more noble and fair than the leaders of God's church. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Religion minus Jesus equals the greatest curse and evil the earth can know.
Be certain you are following Jesus not religion and spreading Good news, not gossip.