When you read this passage it is so easy to ask yourself the question – Why? Why did Paul appeal to Caesar? It was his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar, or was it his ego. In Acts Ch.9 we read the prophetic word to Ananias about Paul – “Go for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” Also in Acts Ch.23 v 11 Paul receives the words from the Lord – “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” Unfortunately the Caesar mentioned here would have been Nero (A.D. 54 – 68) whose reign after five years became increasingly cruel and irrational.
Paul spoke the Gospel message to Governors Felix and Festus then in the next chapter King Agrippa. Prophetic words being fulfilled here. The focus of this passage is almost glossed over in v 19 – Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. These three characters missed the opportunity to accept the truth of the Gospel – Jesus is alive!
Today we face the same issue of people accepting a historical person called Jesus but who in many of their minds, is either still on the cross or in the tomb. The risen Christ seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for us is the fulfilment of the Gospel message. Even today religious leaders, like the Jewish leaders in this passage will argue this point, but we are clearly called to share this message to those who don’t believe – Jesus is alive!
Paul weighed up prophetic and direct words to him and hence made his decisions. No ego driven or “it is my right” decisions from Paul. Time and again we see in scripture Paul led by the Holy Spirit, going or not going in a direction. Sometimes we get clear direction and others times we work with God in what we sense is the right way, taking steps that sometimes make no sense to us at the time, but God knows the bigger picture.
Appealing to Caesar ultimately cost Paul his life, but he was secure in his relationship with a living Jesus. The message from this passage could be summed up in 2 Corinthians Ch.6 v 1 – 2 “We urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain…I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” Three main characters here missed their time.
2 Corinthians Ch.4 v 13 – 14 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.
Lord help me to speak. Amen.