The following statement is wonderful in its exoneration of Paul in the eyes of the world. What shame it ought to have brought to Festus, had he been honest with himself!
Acts 26:32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Sadly, Festus’ focus was not on his shameful dishonesty and unfairness but on not looking like a fool before his boss, as we see in his words to King Agrippa:
Acts 25:26,27 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. For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him.”
On the face of things as they stood at that point of time, Paul was being sent to Rome because he had appealed to Caesar.
But both governers, Festus, and Felix before him, could have set Paul free. They both knew that they had in their hands an innocent man. They did not need King Agrippa to tell them that. They were both corrupt men, who like Pilate in dealing with Paul’s Savior, cared more for their own careers than they did justice.
Acts 24:26 Meanwhile he (Felix) also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him.
Acts 24:27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.
Acts 25:9 But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?
Because I had not read these closing chapters of Acts together and carefully before, I had the mistaken notion that Paul had been a trifle too hasty in appealing to Caesar?
But now I know that he clearly had no option.
Festus knew about the failed plot of the Jews, to ambush and kill Paul (Acts 23). He was also aware of their second plot at an ‘ambush to kill’ (Acts 25). Festus knew that even to make a journey to Jerusalem, leave alone handing him over to the Jews, meant sure death for Paul.
And yet notice how Festus behaves himself while seated on the judgment seat:
Acts 25:7-9 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, 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.”
But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?” (Shame on you, Festus!)
What option did this leave Paul, save to appeal to caesar?
Acts 25: 10-11 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. 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.”
Among the figures of authority who showed kindness to Paul were Lysias the Commander in Jerusalem who sent Paul away to Ceasarea when Paul’s nephew brought him news about the Jewish ambush and Julius the Centurian about whom we read in the last two chapters of Acts. Humanly speaking, as for the likes of Felix and Festus, more harm did not come to Paul at their hands because the Roman system of government and justice prevented them from giving Paul, a Roman citizen by birth, up to the Jews against his wish.
One Day these men, and all others born on this earth, will render account to Almighty God.