25:4 Festus then answered that Paul was being kept in custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave shortly. 5 “Therefore,” he said, “let the influential men among you go there with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them prosecute him.”
6 After he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea, and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. 7 After Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove, 8 while Paul said in his own defense, “I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.” 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?” 10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. 11 If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, “You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.”
The more things change the more they stay the same. Paul was never tried fairly by Felix because Felix was more concerned with political issues than with justice. Festus has taken his place. Paul go has been in custody for two years. It is likely that the change offered him some hope. Maybe the new guy will be better?
As we saw yesterday the Jews saw the new guy as a new opportunity to get rid of Paul once and for all. However Festus was wiser than they had hoped. Rather than agreeing to send Paul to Jerusalem he told the Jews to send a delegation back with him to Caesarea. Festus would try him there and if found guilty he would be prosecuted. It seemed that after two years the saga would end, one way or the other.
Having arrived back in Caesarea the Jews made their case which was long on accusations and charges but empty when it came to evidence.
Paul simply stated his innocence.
Festus was trapped. He wanted Paul to be guilty because it suited his political goal of pleasing the Jews. However he couldn't blatantly condemn a man with no evidence whatsoever. Seeking to pass the buck he suggested Paul be handed over to the Jews to be tried by them in Jerusalem. That way the Jews would get what they wanted without Festus being involved.
Paul was a Roman citizen and as such had rights so he appealed to Caesar. He knew going back to Jerusalem was death by one means or another. By appealing to Caesar Festus saw a way of escape. He would send him to Caesar and effectively wash his hands of the entire mess.
Do you remember the "trial" of Jesus? He was sent to Pilate. Pilate saw that the situation was political suicide so he sent Him to Herod. Herod wanted nothing to do with it and sent Him back to Pilate.
Do you see a pattern?
Justice can only be granted by men who are themselves just. In all these scenarios the men tasked with justice had a different priority - political gain. I repeatedly tell my children life is not fair. We have a built in sense of justice. We believe life should be fair and indeed it should be but it is not. Sin has caused men to think about themselves more than others. Right and wrong and the weight of evidence are feather light considerations in comparison to their own personal situations. The more corrupt any culture becomes and the greater gains and losses on the political side the less concern there is for justice.
You see being a Roman governor over the Jews was no easy task. Paul was just a guy but after he was gone either by release or execution Felix and now Festus had to continue the delicate political dance that ruling the Jews on behalf of the Empire required. The more favour a they could do for the Jews, the more peaceful their work would be.
Lesson: When I deal with my children, my wife, my neighbours, my friends, my church members, etc... what is my greatest motive? What drives my decisions at the deepest level? Is it my gain, my benefit, my future or is it their gain, their benefit, their future? Love gives. Jesus had only one concern: Us. He could have easily avoided the cross. He could have never come here to begin with.
Life isn't fair because there is a war going on in the universe. The scales will never balance until the war is over. The real question is how do you use the scales when you sit in a position to tip them one way or another? Love sacrifices for others and suffers injustice for the benefit of others. Selfishness tips the scales to gain an advantage at the expense of others.
We know what Jesus did. We know what Pilate did. We know how Felix tried to play the middle and how Festus passed the buck. What will we do? What will I do? What will you do when the gavel is in your hand?