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Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

The Story That Paul Told to the King

Acts xxv: 1, to xxvi: 32.

dropcap image HEN Festus came to rule over the land of Judea, in the place of Felix, who had kept Paul in prison so long, he went up to Jerusalem to visit that city. There the chief priests and the leading men spoke to him against Paul, and they asked that he might be sent to Jerusalem to be tried. It was their plan to kill Paul on the way. But Festus told them that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would soon go there.

"Let some of your leaders go down with me," said Festus, "and bring your charges against him, if you have any."

When Festus came down to Caesarea he called them all together, and sat upon the judge's seat, and commanded Paul to be brought. Then the Jews said evil things about Paul, declaring that he had done wickedly. But they could not prove any of the things which they spoke against him. And Paul said, "I have done no wrong against the law of the Jews, nor against the Temple, nor against the rule of Caesar the emperor."

Festus wished to please the Jews, for he did not know their secret purpose to kill Paul. He said, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem, and there be tried upon these charges before me?"

But Paul said, "I am standing before the Roman court where I ought to be judged. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as thou knowest very well, and no man shall give me into their hands. I ask for a trial before Caesar, the emperor at Rome."

It was the law throughout the Roman lands that any citizen of Rome, as Paul was, could ask to be tried at Rome before Caesar, the emperor. When Festus heard Paul's words, he said, "Do you ask to be tried before Caesar? Then unto Caesar you shall go."

So Paul was taken back to the prison at Caesarea to be sent to Rome when his time should come. A few days after this a Jewish ruler named Agrippa, with his sister Bernice, came to visit Festus. He was called "King Agrippa" and he ruled over a part of the land on the east of the river Jordan. While Agrippa and Bernice were at Caesarea, Festus said to them, "There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix, of whom the chief priests and elders of the Jews asked, when I was at Jerusalem, that I should give orders to have him put to death, or given into their hands. I told them that the Romans never give judgment against any man until he stands face to face before his enemies, and can make answer to their charges. When they came down to this place, and the man was brought before them, their charges were not the wicked acts that I expected to hear of; but they had some questions about their ways of worship, and about somebody named Jesus, who was dead, but who Paul said was alive. As I could not understand these questions, I asked Paul whether he would go up to Jerusalem, and there be tried. But Paul asked for a trial before Caesar, and I am keeping him to be sent to the emperor at Rome."

"I would like," said Agrippa, "to hear this man myself."

"To-morrow," said Festus, "you shall hear him."

So on the next day, Agrippa and his sister, Bernice, and Festus, with the chief men of the city and the officers of the army, came in great state to the hall of judgment, and Paul was brought before them, chained to a Roman soldier. And after a few words by Festus, Agrippa said to Paul, "You may now speak for yourself."

Then Paul spoke in words like these:

"I think myself happy, King Agrippa, to give answer before thee of all the things charged against me by the Jews, because I am sure that thou dost know all the Jewish ways and the questions about the law. I ask thee, then, to hear me. My way of life from my youth all the Jews know, for I have lived among them; and if they tell the truth, they would say that I was of those who kept the laws of our people most carefully. And now I stand here to be judged for the sake of the promise which God made to our fathers; that promise to which our twelve tribes, serving God day and night, hope to come. And on account of this hope, O king, the Jews charge me with doing evil; because I believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead to be the King of Israel. Why should it be something thou canst not believe, that God does raise the dead to life?


Paul before Agrippa.

"In former times I really thought with myself that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this I did in Jerusalem; for I shut up many good men and women in prisons, and when they were put to death I gave my voice against them. I caused them to be beaten, and I tried to make them curse the name of Jesus; and being exceedingly mad against them, I sought for them even in cities far away.

"And as I journeyed to Damascus with letters from the chief priests, at mid-day, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining around me and those who were with me. And as we all fell down upon the ground, I heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you fighting against me?'

"And I said, 'Who art thou, Lord?'

"And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are trying to destroy. But rise up, and stand upon your feet, for I have shown myself to you to make you my servant and my messenger to tell of what you have seen, and of what I will show you. I will keep you safe from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I send you, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan, the evil one, to God, that their sins may be forgiven, and that they may receive a reward among those that are made holy by faith in me.

"O King Agrippa, I did not disobey the voice from heaven, but first at Damascus, and then at Jerusalem and throughout all the land of Judea, and also among the Gentiles, I have spoken, telling men to turn from sin to God, and to show deeds of right-doing. This is the cause why the Jews seized me in the Temple and tried to kill me. Having gained help from God, I stand unto this day, speaking to people, small and great, saying only what is given in the law of Moses and in the prophets: that the Christ must suffer and die, and that he by rising from the dead should give light to our people and to the Gentiles."

While Paul was speaking, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are mad! Your great learning has turned you to madness!"

For Festus, being a Roman, knew nothing of Jesus or of the truths which Paul spoke.

But Paul said to him, "I am not mad, most noble Festus. I speak only sober and truthful words. The king knows of these things, and I speak freely to him. None of these things are hidden from him, for these things were not done in secret. King Agrippa, dost thou believe the prophets? I know that thou dost believe."

And Agrippa said to Paul, "A little more and you will persuade me to become a Christian!"

And Paul said, "I would before God, that whether with little or with much, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except these chains!"

After these words, King Agrippa, and Bernice, and Festus the governor, and those who were there, went away by themselves, and they said to each other, "This man has done nothing deserving death or prison."

And Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not asked to be tried before Caesar."