So near and yet so far
Acts 26: Keep this up much longer and you’ll make a Christian out of me!
With Paul’s appeal to Caesar on record, Festus has a problem: he has no real charges on file against him. Rome isn’t interested in the religious arguments of the Jews. To send Paul to Caesar because of such a trivial (in Rome’s eyes) thing will reflect badly on him. In an effort to pass the buck, or at least spread the blame, Festus involves Agrippa, another Roman ruler. Agrippa is considered by Rome to be an expert in Jewish affairs, so having his name on the documents concerning this case will take much of the pressure off of Festus. After two years, Paul is more than ready to state his case and before Agrippa he brings his finest defense. Having done so, Paul directly asks Agrippa if he believes his claims about Jesus of Nazareth and the King’s response that he’s “almost persuaded” becomes his epitaph in Christian history. Some have seen his words as those of a man under deep conviction and others have brushed them aside as sarcasm. On one hand, I don’t think Agrippa is actually teetering on the brink of faith when he responds to Paul. On the other, I don’t think he’s laughing off Paul’s question either. The truth, I think, is somewhere in the middle. Paul’s defense has been eloquent and reasonable. His “offence” (that is, his invitation to Agrippa to respond concerning Jesus) is persuasive. I think that for just a moment Agrippa is moved to faith, but he quickly looks around, sees the crowd, and remembers his place of authority here. He quickly gathers himself and pushes back from the moment. I don’t know what might have happened had Agrippa became a Christian that day. It might have cost him his reputation and position. By not responding those things remained intact. As it is, historians say he lives to his 70’s. Sadly, his best remembered act is “almost believing.”
Take Away: How sad, to be remembered for “almost” doing the right thing.