Summary: We learn from the Apostle Paul that as we mature as a Christian it becomes less about us and what we get and more about the Lord and what we give for Him, including ourselves.
It’s been my experience in the 30+ years I’ve been a follower of Jesus Christ, that there are two major stages in the maturity of a Christian, and within those major stages are two parts.
What Can I Get
For me from the Lord (it’s about me finding blessings for my life)
In me from the Lord (it’s about me growing God’s character in my life)
What Can I Give
To the Lord (it’s not about me anymore but giving glory to God)
For the Lord (it’s about allowing God to use my life, no matter what happens to me)
I myself am somewhere on that continuum, and just because we are maturing doesn’t mean we no longer want and need God’s blessing or His character or desire to worship Him. But I see in the life of the Apostle Paul, as he sets his eyes towards Rome—that he is willing to do whatever it takes, no matter the personal risk or consequences, to see God’s love communicated to the world around him.
A little earlier, Paul said to the Ephesian elders:
And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22-25)
Later on, Paul wrote to Timothy:
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
So as we look at this section, keep in mind that Paul is not being reckless, he is being selfless, and it shows us the way as we desire to mature in our faith in following the Master.
25:1 – 5
Festus didn’t even have time to unpack his bags before going up to the trouble spot in his province: Jerusalem. We know very little about Felix, except that he died in A.D. 62, only a couple of years after coming into office. Felix lost his job because he managed relations with the troublesome Jews poorly. Festus inherited these problems, which culminated in the huge uprisings of 66-70. No doubt he was going to try a different tack—working with the Jews instead of against them. Often a new manager wants to find ways to fix perceived problems he finds.
The fact that the issue with Paul, years now after his arrest, was still at the top of their agenda, shows just how much rancor had developed between the Jewish religion and this new Way.
Festus may not have wanted to get into the details as this first visit was a good will gesture and that he didn’t want to get into adjudicating cases just yet.
Ishmael was now the high priest, but Ananias still exerted a lot of influence and was probably a huge reason why the Paul issue was still on the front burner. Ananias, by the way, died in A.D. 66 at the hands of Jewish nationalists. I think Paul being a Pharisee, a learned man, and a Christian was a huge threat because he had such huge credibility that the people might listen to him and turn from Judaism.
6 – 12
Practically the moment Fetus returns to Caesarea, he orders Paul to be brought before him. Most likely this was the first case of this new Roman provincial governor.
Festus would have known nothing about the prior plot to kill Paul and probably saw nothing wrong with giving into the Jews, part of the new conciliatory approach. Maybe it would win him political points. Paul defended himself in verse 8 for the same three charges: against the rioting, the temple, and sedition against Rome.
Paul knew that to be returned to Jerusalem meant more possible plots against him, which were in fact in place, and that he could be found guilty of the single charge of profaning the temple, for which the Sanhedrin could impose the death penalty. Paul already knew the “guilty before being found innocent” attitude of the ruling council, and not knowing how Festus would rule, he pulls out his trump card—appealing to Caesar.
Roman law allowed citizens to appeal to the emperor only when the case when beyond the normal jurisdiction of the provincial governor, especially where the threat of violent coercion or capital punishment was present. The emperor at the time was Nero (A.D. 54-68). Why would Paul want to go before this persecutor of Christians? That hadn’t happened yet. In fact, at this time, Nero, under the influence of Stoic philosopher Seneca, was a good leader. The time was considered a Golden Age. Nothing at that time warned of what Nero would become in his final five years of life.