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Sep 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 4, 2016 – Acts 25

The Controversial Dead Man

Festus then, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul, and they were urging him, requesting a concession against Paul, that he might have him brought to Jerusalem (at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way). Festus then answered that Pal was being kept in  custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave  shortly. “Therefore,” he said, “let the influential men among you go there with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them prosecute him.” Acts 25:1-5

Intro: If you haven’t attended our Wednesday or Thursday meetings,

Our purpose is not to study the Bible, although that is still important
– instead, we attempt to listen for God’s Spirit to speak to us through scripture
• so we read a passage prayerfully, noticing when something stands out
◦ that is, when a word, phrase, or idea lights up or draws our attention
• then we spend rest of our time seeing what God does with that word or phrase
– that is one way that the Spirit will communicate with us through simple sentences
• but there is another very different way he sometimes gets to us
◦ and that can happen any time, anywhere, through anyone
◦ reading a book, talking with a friend, listening to a sermon, watching a movie
• suddenly a few words are filled with divine energy or light
◦ I could share several examples, but there’s one I remember well

Summer camp, lights out, and all the guys were in their sleeping bags nodding off
– I heard a kid crying in the next bunk: I asked,
“You okay?”
“What’s wrong?”
• he told me the camp speaker had asked him a question that evening
◦ and now in the dark it was haunting him, because he didn’t know the answer
◦ all the speaker had asked him was, “Eddie, are you right with God?”
• I doubt anyone could have predicted the effect this question would have on him
◦ that he would be so eaten up by it
– I’ve sometimes wondered where that experience took Eddie
• later I learned, he didn’t live to see his twentieth birthday

There is a phrase in our passage that is potentially this forceful

A new Roman administrator arrived in Israel

Festus was typical soldier, but one with an aptitude for leadership
– he would need that skill
• after three days in Caesarea, he went to Jerusalem
◦ he no doubt needed to check in with the Roman officials and Jewish leaders there
• he was informed regarding Paul’s case and asked to move the trial to Jerusalem
◦ he agreed to hear the charges, but in Caesarea
– within two weeks he was back on the coast
• Paul was escorted into tribunal, where he was surrounded by his accusers
◦ it seems he responded calmly while denying all charges
• Festus asked if Paul was willingly to be tried in Jerusalem
◦ his motivation was not legal, but political, wishing to do the Jews a favor (v. 9)
• knowing the danger that awaited him in Jerusalem,
◦ Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen and made his appeal to Caesar
– so though he won a small victory, Paul was still in limbo

At this point, two celebrities showed up

King Agrippa–a descendant of Herod the great–received his appointment from Rome
– Bernice was his sister, whom he cared for
• Festus was relieved, because Agrippa was considered an expert in Jewish affairs
• Festus laid Paul’s case before him Agrippa:

Briefly: the Jews had asked Festus to render a death sentence against Paul. However, when he brought Paul to court, the charges not at all what he expected. So Festus gave Paul the option to be tried in Jerusalem and that is when he appealed to Caesar. But now Festus faced an embarrassing situation–he no definite charge against him when delivering Paul to Rome.

– learning this, Agrippa said he would like to hear Paul for himself
• Festus answered, Tomorrow you shall

Luke notes specific details regarding the backdrop

King Agrippa and Bernice entered the auditorium amid great pomp
– this would indicate flashy, expensive clothing indicating their status
• there were also a number of Roman commanders and prominent residents of the city
• then Festus gave the command to bring in the prisoner
◦ so Paul walked in, wearing his accessories–chains manacled to his wrists
– Festus again ran through Paul’s case and his own dilemma
• we have come to this week’s cliffhanger
◦ everything to this point has only been the preliminaries
• what will follow next is Paul’s longest presentation of his defense

I have skipped over that important phrase I mentioned

It was in Festus’ opening statement

When the accusers stood up they began bringing charges against him not of such crimes as I was expecting, but they simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive. (vv. 18-19)

Did you catch it?
– perhaps these words do not effect you like they effect me
• I hear them from the mouth of a skeptic
◦ someone for whom they had no relevance
◦ who was at a loss investigate such matters — and who didn’t care to investigate them
• it is Festus giving his cynical summary of Paul’s message
◦ the truth is right there, within reach; his hand is on the lever
◦ but he doesn’t pull, because he doesn’t believe
– notice the difference between the accusers and accused
• the accusers presented points of disagreement about their religion 
◦ this was what all their heated arguments were “about”
• Paul’s response was “about” a man, a Person
◦ this is what catches our attention first
◦ ugly religion is usually angry over something like this
points of disagreement about their religion

I want to break this down following a literal reading of the Greek

Festus began, “A certain Jesus” – as if to say, “This Jesus character” or “Some guy”
– in 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published On Death and Dying
• research seemed indicated that people who knew they were dying
◦ passed through definite stages (later she referred instead to “phases”)
◦ denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance
• she found that people who were grieving a loss went through similar phases
– during the season of my worst grief, I recognized these stages
• it felt I would not survive the pain
• one morning, reading in Mark 14 about Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane
◦ it struck me that Jesus experienced these phases with the exception of denial and anger

  1. depression: Jesus “began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death . . . .’ “
  2. bargaining: “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me . . . .”
  3. acceptance: “yet not what I will, but what You will”

– I knew then that I wasn’t alone, that Jesus understood
• we need someone who knows what we know
◦ someone who is bound with us in our human condition
◦ whose empathy is real, because his own pain was real

He had to be made like his brothers in all things …. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted (He. 2:17-18)

Festus went on, “Who had died” – and such a death! “even death on a cross” (Php. 2:8)
– Festus knew death, he knew crucifixion
• do you know the etymology of that word?
◦ it’s easy, it means “fix to cross”
• Jesus was executed for caring, for healing, for loving, for enlightening his disciples

Then the twist, “whom Paul asserted to be alive”
– this aggravated Festus (Acts 26:23-24)
• how does a dead man cause all this tension Festus had witnessed?
◦ how does a dead man draw so much devotion? Exert so much influence?
◦ how does a dead man continue to change lives?
• Paul has made a slight but important change in his testimony
◦ until now, when he argued his belief in resurrection it was general resurrection (cf. Acts 24:15)
◦ but now he refers to a specific resurrection of one person
• this is the gospel Paul proclaimed (Ro. 1:1-4; 1 Cor. 15:1-5)

Jesus Christ “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness . . .” (Ro. 1:4)

– we need a savior who is more than we are
• not someone who has never suffered pain or temptation
◦ but Someone who was never broken by his pain or seduced by his temptations (He .7:26)
• he can’t be just another person
◦ if he is as weak as we are and he dives into the ocean of our sin and misery, he will drown with us
◦ our Savior, one with us in our humanity, is our Lord, one with God in his deity

Conc: There is an energy in Festus’ words that only opens to faith

Ask people in a swimming pool, “Is the water warm enough for me?”
– you will get lots of answers, but none of them the right one
• you find out by jumping in
• that is how faith in Jesus works
– “Can I be certain that Jesus is everything the Bible says?”

You cannot be certain if what you mean by that
is having all your questions answered before you commit yourself to Jesus.
If you will take the risk of faith and plunge into Jesus,
in time, the question of certainty will go away.
You will have Jesus and he is enough.

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