By Andrea Harris
We answer hundreds of common questions every day – what should I wear, eat, or do today? At times we answer weightier questions – what profession should I pursue, whom should I marry, where should I live, where and how should I worship? But there are no more important questions than the ones Festus was attempting to answer in Acts 25. I doubt he understood the enormity of the problem in front of him when he took office. He quickly discovered that there was a prisoner who had been held for two years because of charges brought against him by the local religious leaders. The prisoner was Paul.
The Jewish religious leaders were trying to get rid of Paul. They had brought false accusations against him and were trying to manipulate the system to keep their status and power.
From an earthly perspective we see political and legal maneuvers taking place in this section of Acts. The local rulers, Felix and then Festus, want to “do the Jews a favor” since they want to stay on the good side of the people. Things will remain peaceful in the region and it will look good on their resumes and to the Caesar in Rome.
From a very different perspective we see God’s hand over it all. Paul’s life could have ended numerous times before this, but instead he continues to have multiple opportunities to bring the gospel to the crowds and rulers. The plots against his life had been thwarted not by mere chance, but by God’s design. God has more for Paul to do.
In Acts 25:11-12 Paul appeals to Caesar and is granted his request. While this is an appropriate legal request, it’s also in keeping with the instruction Paul received directly from the Lord in Acts 23:11. Paul is going to preach the gospel in Rome also!
There’s one problem. Festus doesn’t want to send a prisoner to Rome without a clear description of the charges against the accused. He needs to investigate this further, which leads to a clear opportunity for Paul to speak in his defense – basically, sharing the gospel. Festus described the supposed charges as unexpected and that the Jews “had some points of disagreement with him [Paul] about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive.” (Acts 25:19)
Therein lies the crux of the matter. Who is Jesus? Is he alive or dead? Festus might have asked these questions merely to clarify historical facts about what really happened to Jesus. However, these questions carry enormous weight: they have power to change individuals and the world with an eternal impact.
While we will all be called to answer that question at a final judgment, we are also answering it every day. The way we answer the common questions of life reflects our answer to the ultimate question. So how are you answering the "Who is Jesus?" question today?