I’m sure Festus just wanted to do his job. He had been appointed by the Romans to replace Felix as governor/procurator of Judea (in 59/60AD) and, in the transfer of leadership, He inherited a unique prisoner… named Paul.
Festus found himself in a legal firestorm. But, Festus considered himself a fair man, and would look at all the facts before he made a decision.
Paul did not fit the description most people apply to prisoners. He was well-educated and respectful, and he desired to live rightly before God and with others. So, why was he in prison?
The Jewish leaders had been hounding Festus to transfer Paul to Jerusalem to stand trial there (because they secretly planned to assassinate him along the way). Instinctively, Festus stalled them until he could hear from Paul himself. Upon arriving in Caesarea, Festus immediately ordered Paul’s trial to resume. But, as soon as Festus allowed Paul to speak, Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen to stand before the Caesar in judgment. So, Festus was required to send Paul on to Rome.
As Paul waited to leave for Rome, Festus discussed Paul’s case with some visiting dignitaries (Agrippa 2 & his wife, Bernice) and called for Paul to speak to them to help him make sense of the case.
As Paul spoke, Festus became so puzzled by what Paul was saying about Jesus that he called Paul insane! But, Paul continued… and even tried to convince the dignitaries themselves to become Christians.
After Paul finished speaking, the dignitaries informed Festus that Paul could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar, but Festus was now bound by Paul’s appeal (and Paul really did want a face-to-face with the Caesar). So, Festus sent Paul on to Rome.
To Festus, Paul seemed like a reasonable man in every way – until it came to this man, Jesus. Festus found Christianity puzzling and far-fetched.
Jesus sometimes gets the same treatment by some today. Christianity – and Christ – offers a startling contrast to the struggle for power, success, and wealth that consumes the world. And, like Paul, we should be ready at any time to give an account of the hope within us.
* Will anyone hear you speak the name of Jesus today?
You can read the story of Festus in Acts 24:27—26:32.