Paul’s defence before the Jewish King Agrippa and the newly appointed Roman Governor Festus ends in the Festus’ aggressive incredulity, and Agrippa’s reluctance to be drawn further into the fray, but provides another opportunity for Paul to appeal to his audience to believe in God’s good news, the gospel.
24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
This is the last of Paul’s several defences where he is accused by the Jews for breaking their law but tried by the Romans, before being sent to Rome for a trial before the Emperor Caesar.
What prompts Governor Festus’s incredulous reply that Paul is out of his mind at this point in the case?
It is Paul’s repeated assertion that the Jewish writings prophesied that Jesus would suffer (by being crucified), be the first to rise from the dead and bring a message of light to both his people the Jews and the non-Jews.
Obviously, the Roman Governor Festus would not be familiar with the Jewish writings and found this prophecy of an alleged leader who died, was resurrected and now offers hope of eternal life to all people unbelievable. Before we come to the point of belief, we all probably feel the same way, to some degree. We live, we die, we are buried, and we don’t see any evidence of this resurrection in this age. Jesus himself said to his own people, who knew the prophecies, but did not expect him to die – the work of God is this, to believe in the one whom he has sent. Jesus is pointing out that salvation and eternal life is a free gift of God but cannot be earned. By believing in Jesus his Son, whom God has sent, we receive eternal life.
In other writings, Paul says that Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. Festus as a Gentile (non-Jew) would fail to understand the wisdom of a crucifixion in achieving eternal life for us, which explains his hostile reaction to Paul.
As a Jew steeped in the Jewish writings and having personally met Christ before being sent on his mission as an apostle to all people, Paul can say with certainty that what he is saying is true and reasonable. Will you believe it?
Paul uses his defence of the charges brought against him as an opportunity to testify to the good news prophesied in the Jewish writings that Jesus died to forgive us our sins, was resurrected to give us eternal life, and that if you repent and turn to God evidenced by your good deeds, you will inherit eternal life.
Prayer: Thank you Lord for the gift of Jesus, your one and only Son, who died for us, was resurrected and offers eternal life to all who believe. Thank you too for raising up mighty men life Paul to fearlessly testify to this good news and bring many sons and daughters to glory.
A song to listen to: How Deep the Father’s Love
Living Church – Creek Road