Held on a Technicality

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 35-36; Acts 25

13 After several days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea to welcome Festus. 14 Since they were staying there for many days, Festus discussed the case against Paul with the king. He said, “There is a man whom Felix left in prison. 15 When I was in Jerusalem, the Jewish chief priests and elders brought charges against him and requested a guilty verdict in his case. 16 I told them it is contrary to Roman practice to hand someone over before they have faced their accusers and had opportunity to offer a defense against the charges.17 When they came here, I didn’t put them off. The very next day I took my seat in the court and ordered that the man be brought before me.18 When the accusers took the floor, they didn’t charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they quibbled with him about their own religion and about some dead man named Jesus, who Paul claimed was alive. 20 Since I had no idea how to investigate these matters, I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to stand trial there on these issues. 21 However, Paul appealed that he be held in custody pending a decision from His Majesty the emperor, so I ordered that he be held until I could send him to Caesar.”

22 Agrippa said to Festus, “I want to hear the man myself.”

“Tomorrow,” Festus replied, “you will hear him.”

23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great fanfare. They entered the auditorium with the military commanders and the city’s most prominent men. Festus then ordered that Paul be brought in.24 Festus said, “King Agrippa and everyone present with us: You see this man! The entire Jewish community, both here and in Jerusalem, has appealed to me concerning him. They’ve been calling for his immediate death. 25 I’ve found that he has done nothing deserving death. When he appealed to His Majesty, I decided to send him to Rome. 26 I have nothing definite to write to our lord emperor. Therefore, I’ve brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after this investigation, I might have something to write. 27 After all, it would be foolish to send a prisoner without specifying the charges against him.” (Acts 25:13-27, Common English Bible).

As most all of us know, because of the internet we get more news faster than had ever been possible before. Because of advances in DNA research, we are also able to learn more about ourselves and about one another than we ever knew before.

We don’t hear it too often, but just often enough to remind us it is possible. It is possible for someone, particularly someone accused before today’s DNA technology, who, by the current DNA technology is proven innocent. The evidence of hair or bodily fluids proves beyond anything approaching a reasonable doubt that this person could not have committed the crime.

What is particularly troublesome then is, on some kind of technicality, that person remains behind bars. They are innocent. They have always been innocent and yet they remain in jail because their case didn’t complete early enough in the day on Friday so they must spend the weekend in jail. And that technicality is a minor one.

For Paul, in our lesson, today, Festus, the imperial governor, is explaining to King Agrippa, “The entire Jewish community, both here and in Jerusalem, has appealed to me concerning him. They’ve been calling for his immediate death. I’ve found that he has done nothing deserving death. When he appealed to His Majesty, I decided to send him to Rome.”

But for Paul’s appeal to Rome, he might have quickly become a free man. All he had to do was go back to Jerusalem for trial before Festus who has already said he sees nothing of Paul deserving this treatment from the Jews. But, Paul appealed to the emperor and before the emperor he must stand.

But I think Paul was comfortable in this decision. He was comfortable because of his faith in Jesus Christ. That faith made him free in ways he would never know while depending solely on the judgment of Festus.

May we know that level of freedom too.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

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