Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2 And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, 3 asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. 4 Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. 5 “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.” (Acts 25:1–5 (ESV)
Previously, Luke mentioned that Porcius Festus succeeded Felix as the Roman governor of Judea (Acts 24:27). The precise date of Festus’s accession to power is debatable but has been narrowed to sometime between ad 55 and 60. The only sources mentioning Festus are the book of Acts and the writings of Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived in Rome in the first century ad (Antiquities 20.8.9–11; 9.1).
One commentator writes, “Josephus wrote that Festus ruled wisely and justly, in contrast to Felix and Albinus, Festus’ successor. Sicarii bandits (named after the small swords they carried) who had terrorized the Palestinian countryside were eliminated under Festus’s rule. In spite of this, he could not reverse the damage incurred by his predecessor, Felix, who had aggravated the conflict between pagans and Jews.”
Luke records that three days after Festus arrived in the Judean province, he traveled from Caesarea to Jerusalem. Upon his arrival, Luke states, “And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way.”
However, Festus proved to be every bit a shrewd and savvy with the Jewish leaders. Luke records Festus refusing their request saying that Paul would be kept at Caesarea and that Festus himself intended to go there shortly. Festus also stated, “Let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.”
Festus granted the Jews another opportunity to bring their case against Paul. However, he did not grant them the change of venue they desired.
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Festus must protect Paul while he was in Roman custody. Probably having reviewed the letter from the tribune Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:26-30), that explains Paul’s relocation to custody in the provincial capital, Festus refuses the request of the Jews, saving Paul from their plot.”
Today’s text once again displays the sovereign providence of God in the life of the Apostle Paul. The same sovereign providence is active among believers today. May each of us rest in God’s sovereignty.
Soli deo Gloria!