Paul Appeals to Caesar
 Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea.  And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him,  asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way.  Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly.  “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.”
 After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought.  When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove.  Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”  But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?”  But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well.  If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.”  Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”
Paul Before Agrippa and Bernice
 Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus.  And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix,  and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him.  I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him.  So when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought.  When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed.  Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive.  Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them.  But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.”  Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.”
 So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in.  And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer.  But I found that he had done nothing deserving death. And as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him.  But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write.  For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.” (ESV)
- Foiled again
Numerous times, the Jews sought to kill Paul. Whether it was stoning him and leaving him for dead outside the city gates (Acts 14:19) or devising a plan to ambush him in transit, Paul was constantly in danger (2 Corinthians 11:24-29). In this text, Paul once again escapes a murder plot. This highlights not only the fierce opposition Paul dealt with on a regular basis, but also the incredible resolve he had to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The closer he gets to fulfilling his mission, the harder it gets.
- Salvation and suffering
If we step back and look at Paul’s life, we see both high and low points. He witnessed incredible works of God, even being used by God to miraculously heal people. And yet, Paul also suffered and walked through drawn-out, difficult seasons. How many times would he be falsely accused? How many times would he narrowly escape a plot to take his life? How many times would he have to stand before a ruler or judge to plead his case yet again? Salvation and grace do not mean that everything goes our way. It means that when nothing goes our way, our God is still with us and still loves us.
- Testifying to kings
After Paul encountered the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus, Jesus revealed that he would testify before kings (Acts 9:15). What Paul did not know at that time was that the relentless accusations from the Jews, both of a religious and political nature, would be the mechanism by which God would use Paul to testify to the Gospel before kings. With each accusation, a hearing would take place, and at every hearing, Paul would testify about Jesus.
- Sometimes it feels like you just can’t catch a break. How do you respond in seasons like that? How do you feel about God?
- Our salvation in Jesus does not make us immune to suffering in the world. How have you experienced suffering and how has God used that experience to grow and sanctify you?
- In many ways, Paul’s Christian life and ministry was a series of divinely placed disasters, each moving him closer to God’s ultimate goal. How has God used divine disasters in your life? Looking back on your life, how do you see God continually moving you toward his ultimate goal?
Call to Worship
O LORD, Deliver My Life
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.
 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
 My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD—how long?
 Turn, O LORD, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
 For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?
 I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
 My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.
 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
 The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment. (ESV)
Prayer of Confession
Almighty God, who does freely pardon all who repent and turn to Him, now fulfill in every contrite heart the promise of redeeming grace; forgiving all our sins, and cleansing us from an evil conscience; through the perfect sacrifice of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
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