Acts 25: I appeal to Caesar
Paul has been confined in Caesarea for two years as Governor Felix ignores his innocence and hopes for some kind of bribe that never comes. It isn’t that Paul is chained in a dungeon; in fact, he’s invited to chat with Felix several times. Then, a new Governor is appointed. Festus is immediately approached by Paul’s enemies who want him moved to Jerusalem, supposedly to stand trial in their courts, but actually that he might be removed from Roman protection and murdered. The new Governor knows the kind of people he’s dealing with and, instead, invites them to come to Caesarea and make their case there. In less than two weeks, Paul finds himself being wildly accused once again, this time before Festus. When this new Governor wavers and asks Paul if he’s willing to face these people (who obviously can’t wait to get their hands on him) he surprises everyone by playing the trump card available to a Roman citizen: he requests that his case be heard by Caesar, himself. This takes the Jews of Jerusalem out of play and places Paul under the scrutiny of the Emperor. In this case, Caesar isn’t an especially nice guy and he certainly isn’t known for his mercy. From Paul’s point of view, though, it’s better to take his chances with Caesar than face certain death from the Jewish leadership. I’m glad today that when I face the accusations of my failure, guilt, and sin that, rather than face the consequences, that I can appeal to a Higher Court. This Court is known for its grace and mercy. This is a place where love and forgiveness abounds. As my life is on the line and my sin moves to condemn me, I appeal to God, not for justice, but for mercy.
Take Away: Its mercy I need from God and its mercy I receive.
When trouble comes knocking
Acts 24: I do my best to keep a clear conscience before God and my neighbors.
Paul’s first formal hearing is before the governor, Felix. In spite of the compliments paid him by Tertullus, the lawyer for the Jewish leaders, Felix is a corrupt official who isn’t above receiving bribes. However, as Paul points out, Felix is in some ways best suited to hear the case. He, himself, has a connection to the beliefs of the Jews because he’s married to a Jewish wife named Drusilla. He’ll have a better grasp on some of the finer points of this case than others. Tertullus contends that Paul is a ringleader of a group of Nazarene troublemakers. Paul responds that this simply isn’t true. He hasn’t even been in the country for several years and, at the Temple, he was minding his own business when others started the riot. He adds that he makes it his practice to get along with both God and man. Paul may have been at the center of a riot, but it wasn’t his intention. In fact, if he has it his way, he makes friends with everyone and focuses his energies on doing the right thing in all circumstances. This leads me to a couple of thoughts. First, Paul’s goal should be my goal. I’m to “do my best to keep a clear conscience before God and my neighbors.” Christians aren’t to be trouble makers. Rather, we’re to be good citizens and good neighbors. Second, sometimes my best isn’t going to be good enough. Like Paul, I don’t have to make trouble to get into trouble. Sometimes trouble finds me. When that happens to Paul, he stands his ground, shows proper respect, and trusts God to see him through the unwanted trouble. His example is a pretty good example for me and for all those who live for the Lord.
Take Away: Paul’s the same guy who says, “If possible live at peace with all men.”