Thursday, January 25, 2007

What Charges Should be Laid?

This line made me smile "For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him." It comes from the last verse in Acts 25. I have to admit, my first reaction was a rather sarcastic "you think?" Really makes me wonder at the justice system back in Roman days. A man could be held without proven charges being laid against him. It was a time when doing a fellow a favour could mean another fellows' imprisonment.

This is what we read
1Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, 3asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem--because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way.
Festus told them that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he was going to go there himself. If they (jewish leaders) had charges against him, they best come along and make them.

And so it happened.
When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove.
8Paul argued in his defense, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense."
Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, "Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?"
Paul's response was no. If I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, which is where I aught to be tried, then I appeal to Caesar.
To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourselves know very well. 11If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.
And Festus agreed. But when King Agrippa came to visit, Festus brought the matter before him.

Here is what he said
"There is a man left prisoner by Felix, 15and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. 17So when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. 18When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. 19Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. 21But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar."
King Agrippa seemed intrigued by the case and wanted to hear what Paul had to say for himself. So with great pomp they entered the audience hall. Paul was brought in before Agrippa.

24And Festus said, "King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25But I found that he had done nothing deserving death. And as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him. 26But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. 27For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him."
Festus is a man between a rock and a hard place. He's left with a prisoner from the govenor before him. He has these jewish leaders he's trying to keep on the good side of, and is faced with a man who actually knows his rights. What does he do? I don't blame him at all for bringing King Agrippa into the situation for as he do I send a man to Caesar when I don't know what charges to bring against him?

When I look at this case from a different perspective I see all the people that Paul has a chance to bring God's word to. Festus, the jewish leaders, the guards, King Agrippa and Bernice. Paul knew his rights, they kept him safe and alive, but he didn't just sit on that, he defended himself, he defended the Lord he served, I don't know, there just seems to be a lot of "character" in Paul. Makes me want to be like him just a bit.

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