Here’s the link to Acts 25.
Paul’s accusers are too stubborn to let go of their animus even after two years, so they make another attempt to plot his assassination. Paul is in a Caesarean prison. They try and get Festus to bring Paul to Jerusalem so they can ambush him on the way and rid themselves of their pain in the neck. Festus doesn’t take the bait. Whether he was suspicious or not, the text doesn’t tell us. Instead, he invites them to Caesarea to present their case against Paul. So they do.
The upshot, of course, is that they couldn’t prove their case.
Festus asks Paul if he wants to be taken to Jerusalem to be tried there by him. Yet even Festus doesn’t buy that Paul has done anything wrong, certainly nothing deserving of the death penalty. One gets the impression that Festus just wants to be rid of this problem left to him by Felix.
It’s at this point that Paul as a Roman citizen appeals to Caesar, knowing full well he’d never get anything like a fair trial in Jerusalem. Not to mention that he has been seeking to go to Rome. Perhaps God was opening this door, and Paul wasn’t going to miss walking through it.
Something that leaps out at me while reading this part of Acts is how much the attempt to charge Paul or preferably kill him reminds me of what a sham Jesus’ trial was. False charges. Lying witnesses. Virulent hostility. Spiritual blindness.
Makes me think of Jesus’ words from John 15:20: If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
For Paul, Jesus’ words were coming true.
It’s possible that when we are living faithfully in relationship with Jesus we could face the same persecution as Jesus and Paul (and other disciples). There might be people who hate us simply because we believe in and follow Jesus.
Indeed, I have no doubt that this is already true to some extent for some Christians even here in Canada. And as the gap between the values or worldview of our surrounding culture and the Christian worldview continues to widen (and it might already be chasm-like), this will only become more and more likely.
However, there are many Christians in the world who already face serious, even violent persecution for practicing their faith. There are several countries where being a follower of Jesus is against the law. Thankfully, we’re not there yet. But that day may come.
Paul kept a faithful witness through all of this. He knew he was innocent of the charges they brought against him. As Festus told Agrippa, all his enemies had were some disagreements with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, a dead man Paul claimed to be alive.
Soon he would share his coming to faith in Jesus with Agrippa as well. After that, off he would go to Rome. But not without some difficulties along the way. And as we continue living the way of Jesus, we can expect similar difficulties or at least not be entirely surprised when they come our way.