Antonius Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus as the Roman procurator of Judea from about 59 to 62 AD. After some days, Festus met with King Agrippa II and his sister, Bernice, who was always by his side (one of his other siblings was Drusilla, who was the wife of Festus’ predecessor, Felix). This Agrippa was educated in the court of the emperor Claudius, and was the son of Herod Agrippa I, who in Acts 12:1-3 had the Apostle James killed and Peter arrested, and who the Lord stuck down dead in Acts 12:21-23. He was also the great-grandson of Herod the Great – who had ordered the killing of all the male children of the region around Bethlehem when Jesus was born. As Festus laid out the case against Paul, he concluded by surmising that the matter was a dispute about their religion, and the death of “a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive” (verse 19).
The next day, Festus introduced Paul, saying in a nutshell that (interestingly enough) he had found no charge deserving of death for Paul, and therefore he thought it wise to have him appear to Agrippa, so that maybe he (Festus) would have “something to write” before sending him to Caesar.
In chapter 26, Agrippa gave Paul permission to speak in his defense. Agrippa’s reputation was that of a pious Jew, though much of the rest of his reputation was not so good. Still, he was (like his uncle Herod) in control of the temple treasury, and the Romans consulted him on religious matters. Paul then gives us the third account in this book of his vision – his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus (the other two being in Acts 9 and Acts 22), and ending with the charge that Jesus gave him (verses 15-18). From this chapter’s account, we have more details about what Jesus said to him on that first occasion.
The outburst of Festus during Paul’s reference to the fulfilling of all that Moses and the prophets said would take place would seem to affirm his alignment with the Jewish accusers. But Paul seems pretty confident that Agrippa is not so inclined. Note verse 27 – “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” Agrippa is no fool, and Paul is surely not foolish enough to speak hastily when he says in verse 26: “For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.” Verse 28 is difficult in translation, but regardless of the translated version, it says that Agrippa was not quite ready to accept the fact of Jesus as Lord and Christ; and is the inspiration for the hymn, “Almost Persuaded.” Paul’s response is that he would have Agrippa and all who hear him to be as Paul himself is (minus the chains, of course) – that is, to believe in the Lord.
Agrippa’s statement to Festus after he, Bernice and the others had met outside Paul’s presence (verses 30-32) is a sort of vindication, but not the end of Paul’s ordeal. Agrippa could have set Paul free if he had not appealed to Caesar, but he had no choice by law but to send him to so appear before the emperor.
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