This was from my LIFE Journal Devotions this morning:
Acts 25:22–27 (ESV)
22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.”
23 So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But I found that he had done nothing deserving death. And as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.”
25:11 I appeal to Caesar. When Festus asks Paul if he will go to Jerusalem to be tried, Paul declares, I appeal to Caesar. Roman citizens had the right to appeal to the emperor in Rome, though Paul’s is unusual because it occurs before a verdict. Paul’s plan to witness in Rome (19:21) had been confirmed by the Lord in a vision (23:11). An appeal to Caesar must have occurred to Paul as a way to pursue this plan.
25:13–26:32 Paul before Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice. Paul’s appeal to Caesar left Festus both relieved to pass the difficult case on to Rome, and in a quandary about what to say to the emperor about it (25:26). The arrival of King Agrippa and Bernice gives Festus ready-made advisers. Festus reviews the story with the two in private (25:13–22) before convening a public hearing (25:23–26:32), much of which consists of Paul’s self defense (26:1–23) and his appeal to Agrippa (26:24–29).
The story operates on two levels. On one level, Paul is the prisoner and pawn of Rome—he is led into the audience chamber (25:23), is more spoken about than spoken to (25:24, 26), has to be given permission to speak (26:1), and is in chains (26:29). The astute reader, though, has access to a more dramatic story line. The risen Christ chose Paul “to bear My name before … kings” (9:15; see note on 9:10–16) and this scene fulfills Paul’s Christ-ordained destiny. He is not the pawn of Rome, but the emissary of his risen Lord. Just as in this story, we often need to perceive the deeper, God-ordained story line in our own lives. We belong to Him and He is working out His purposes.
25:13 King Agrippa. King Agrippa II, the son of Agrippa I and great grandson of Herod the Great. In his youth he was a friend of Titus, who would conquer Jerusalem (A.D. 70) and become emperor. He became ruler of northern and eastern Palestine. Bernice. She was both King Agrippa’s sister (as was Drusilla, the wife of Felix; see note on 24:24–25) and his consort, or presumed mistress. She was renowned for her beauty and had been married to two kings. Later, when Titus (just mentioned) returned to Rome after putting down the Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66–70), he took Bernice along as his mistress.
25:21 Augustus. A Latin term for the emperor meaning “His majesty the emperor.”
25:23 In addition to Festus (see note on vv. 1–12) and Agrippa and Bernice (see note on v. 13), this show trial features the Roman commanders and prominent men of the city. Over against this wealthy, influential audience adorned in their finery, Paul, who is in chains (26:29), must have appeared a study in contrasts.
Jon L. Dybdahl, ed., Andrews Study Bible Notes (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2010), 1459–1460.
25:18–20 Festus told Agrippa that the Jews raised none of the charges “which [he] expected” (v. 18). This most likely means that the Jews were not able to charge Paul with treason or any crime by Roman law. His next statement would bear that out: their charges only dealt with matters of their own religion and a “dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive” (v. 19). Festus’s reference to the resurrection is intriguing. It shows how incomprehensible to a pagan the whole concept must have been (cf. 26:24). And this was the whole point. Festus was not competent to try the case, as he himself admitted (v. 20a). It was an internal Jewish religious discussion which in no way involved Roman law. Why, then, did Festus wish to continue the case by transferring it to Jerusalem (v. 20b) if he already had determined that no Roman law had been broken? Why did he not throw it out of court like Gallio (18:15)? Luke has given us the answer: he wanted “to do the Jews a favor” (v. 9). Festus was simply not the sterling example of Roman justice he claimed to be (v. 16) and that, at least implicitly, by his own admission. But there it is for everyone to read in Festus’s own words—Paul and the Christians were guilty of no crime against the state (v. 18).
John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 494.
Festus knew there was nothing wrong with Paul. It became very clear that Paul did not deserve to die. But why wouldn’t he release him? This is likely as the commentaries above point out. The whole information about Agrippa and who he was as well as who Bernice his wife/sister was adds a lot of information to what is coming ahead in the next chapter when he’s almost persuaded but not quite.
Live a life of integrity. Live your life in such a way that if someone starts a rumor about you no one would believe it. That’s what Paul did. That’s what you teach your kids. Why not continue down the path yourself. Years ago, Don Jacobsen taught that concept. I’m still trying to live by it.