Playing Politics

The backroom deals can make things happen at times that leave you scratching your head. Just when you thought you knew the rules, you find out that the rules have been changed.

That is what the Jewish leaders try to do with Paul. As Festus, the new puppet king ruling over the area from Caesarea, comes up to Jerusalem, he stays there for about a week and a half where he meets with the Jewish leaders and works out a potential plan. The Jews ask that Paul be transferred back to Jerusalem where they will administer some “street justice” upon him by ambushing him while traveling back and kill him. Festus denies their request, but later reconsiders and asks Paul if he would be willing to go up to Jerusalem. Who knows…maybe Festus eventually realizes that he has a problem with Paul that he hasn’t been able to solve and just wants to clear himself of the issue? Hard to know why he had a change of mind, but clearly he was hoping to get Paul out of there.

But Paul sees through it. He knows that going back to Jerusalem would be death for him. And he also knows that Jesus has called him to take the message to Rome, so he sees his opportunity:

Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”

After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

Acts 25:10-12

Paul had been left in prison for two years. He had been forgotten, and his case simply not dealt with. But now is the time to move forward. He appeals to Caesar in Rome, and Festus agrees. He says that Paul will go to Rome.

Throughout this entire process, we can continue to see Paul speaking with wisdom, depending on the people before whom he is standing. He used wise words before the Sannhedrin to be able to divide the leaders and be taken from Jerusalem to Caesarea. He did the same as he stood before Felix and the Jewish leaders to face the charges, identifying himself and his position to be the same as that of the Jewish leaders. And now, he does it yet again before Festus by pointing out that what Festus wants to do is unlawful and is stripping him of his rights as a Roman citizen. In each of these moments, at key times, I think that we can see the hand of God guiding Paul, helping him to move in the direction of Rome, fulfilling the words of Jesus from Matthew 10:19: But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say.

Jesus continues to walk with his people, especially in moments of trouble. We can depend upon him to complete his plan as he will be the one to guide us with his words and power, even when men devise schemes in an attempt to play out political agendas.

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