Acts 25: 13-27: ‘Man Alive.’

“13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. 14 Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: ‘There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.  16 ‘I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. 17 When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus whom Paul claimed was alive. 20 I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21 But when Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.’  22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear this man myself.’  He replied, ‘Tomorrow you will hear him.’  23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said: ‘King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. 27 For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.’” NIV UK

King Agrippa was the son of the King Herod mentioned in chapter 12. He was also the brother of Drusilla, the wife of Felix (24:24). The Roman Emperor had given to him a small kingdom. It included the southern part of modern day Lebanon, and the province of Galilee. He ruled there under the emperor’s authority. Being a Jew himself, Agrippa knew a lot more about Jewish customs than Festus, so Festus took the opportunity to discuss the case with him.

Somebody said something like this, ‘If the resurrection of Christ has left a hole in history the size and shape of the empty tomb, with what does the secular historian propose to fill it?!’ That’s a good question.

Some years ago, Canon Michael Green wrote a brilliant book about the evidence for the resurrection. It was entitled ‘Man Alive.’ The nineteenth verse reveals how much Paul emphasised the resurrection of Christ, and we know this anyway from elsewhere in ‘Acts.’ As far as Paul was concerned, Jesus was no ‘dead man.’ He had met Him personally and his life was revolutionised in the encounter (26:12-18). Do dead men speak and hand out assignments? A man was asked, ‘How do you know Jesus is alive?’ He replied, ‘Oh, I was talking with Him only five minutes ago!’ We in the church today need to recover the thrill of realising that Jesus who died, and was buried, is now alive. Let it be our repeated refrain as it was for the apostle Paul: Christ is alive!

Today’s passage shows that although Felix, as a politician, cared most about his position and status (and he therefore wanted to please the Jews, as previously noted); he nevertheless knew that Paul was innocent. As with Jesus in the gospels, Paul’s lack of guilt is hammered home by the text. You can’t fail to see it.

Today, of these three main characters, Paul alone is famous. We only remember Agrippa and Festus because for a very short time they were with Paul. ‘’God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him’ (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

PRAYER: Let the truth that Christ is alive possess my heart and give me overflowing joy.