Appeal to Caesar?

An appeal to Caesar can get you killed!

Every time I read the Bible, I pray first and ask God to bless me as His son, His child, expecting Him to lead and guide my Bible study as a Father who teaches His children as God instructs, practicing what He preaches (Deuteronomy 6:7). I often keep a paper and pen handy to write down notes or thoughts, questions and comments, that come to mind to consider more deeply, more thoroughly, later.

Here’s a spiritual sample of what I’m talking about this seventh day Sabbath:

The background to this section of the Book of Acts is Paul has been falsely accused and detained, and sets the record straight but remains imprisoned.

Acts 24
22 But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.” 23 So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him.24 And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come [some would criticize Paul and say he should have delivered this or that message rather than the one God gave Him), Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” 26 Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him [typical politician hoping to have his palms greased, looking for bribes]. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him.27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound. [He wasn’t afraid enough of God’s judgment or he wouldn’t have left Paul in prison for two years. Apparently Felix was more concerned with the “Jewish lobby” than justice].

Acts 25
1 Now when Festus had come to the province, after three days he went up from Caesarea [I used to live next to Caesarea at Kibbutz Sdot Yam] to Jerusalem. 2 Then the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they petitioned him, 3 asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem—while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him. 4 But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly. 5 “Therefore,” he said, “let those who have authority among you go down with me and accuse this man, to see if there is any fault in him.”
6 And when he had remained among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day, sitting on the judgment seat, he commanded Paul to be brought. 7 When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove, 8 while he answered for himself, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all.” [Reminds me of refuting the lies, the disinformation campaign against me, as I testify in I’m not a terrorist] 9 But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor [first Felix, now Festus], answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?”
10 So Paul said, “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. [Dishonest individuals shamefully persist in their error, continue in their sin, rather than repent]. 11 For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.”
12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, “You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!”

Paul Before Agrippa

13 And after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus. 14 When they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying: “There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix, 15 about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, when I was in Jerusalem, asking for a judgment against him. 16 To them I answered, ‘It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.’ 17 Therefore when they had come together, without any delay, the next day I sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed, 19 but had some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. 20 And because I was uncertain of such questions, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. 21 But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar.”
22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I also would like to hear the man myself.”
“Tomorrow,” he said, “you shall hear him.” [God is expanding Paul’s audience among the people and rulers, turning lemons into lemonade, utilizing false accusations as a podium to preach the plain truth].
23 So the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and had entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at Festus’ command Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said: “King Agrippa and all the men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he was not fit to live any longer. 25 But when I found that he had committed nothing deserving of death, and that he himself had appealed to Augustus, I decided to send him. 26 I have nothing certain to write to my lord concerning him. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him.”

Acts 26
1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.”
So Paul stretched out his hand and answered for himself: 2 “I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, 3 especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently.
4 “My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. 5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?
9 “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them . 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

Paul Recounts His Conversion

12 “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground [it doesn’t say they were knocked down, but undoubtedly they all went down on their knees, afraid], I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. [Paul’s savage persecution of Christians was considered an assault on Christ]. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people [God refers to Israel and Judah as People and separates them from the nations], as well as from the Gentiles [the non-Jews and Israelites, the world, the nations], to whom I now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ [I love this Scripture!].

Paul’s Post-Conversion Life

19 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea [is God racist? “To the Jew first, then to the Gentiles], and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance [some professing Christians would deny we must confess and forsake sins and prove it, verify our conversion, and let Christ have good works in and through and for us – Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13; 1 Titus 1:16; 1 John 2:4 – Overcome in Christ Daily]. 21 For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me . 22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people [to the Jews/Israelites first, then the Gentiles – Romans 1:16] and to the Gentiles.”

Agrippa Parries Paul’s Challenge

24 Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” [Sounds like the forums where some mock, “Have you taken your meds?” since they can’t refute, they ridicule; they can’t debate, so they defame].
25 But he said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. 26 For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
29 And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”
30 When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them; 31 and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, “This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains.”
32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
 
Oy veh! I can hear, “Oh no, Mr. Bill!” [From the twisted cartoon]. Isn’t this bizarre at first glance? Here Paul felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar since the Jews plotted his murder in Jerusalem, yet by appealing to Caesar he got sent to Rome where he was later murdered for his biblical beliefs! But what other alternative did he have? However, God who knows the end from the beginning, didn’t permit his martyrdom before empowering him to testify of the Kingdom of God before a wide and diverse audience. So sometimes things don’t always turn out like we had planned or hoped or wanted, and we don’t always see God’s purpose in dire straits, or recognize His Hand and Plan immediately, but it is fulfilled anyway, thankfully. Isn’t that why we pray, “Your will be done”?

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