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June 27, 2007
Felix stepped down as governor, and Festus took his place. Luke tells us that when Festus traveled to Jerusalem, the Jews asked that Paul be brought there from Caesarea. They were planning to ambush him on the way. Festus wisely said no. He told the Jews he was on his way to Caesarea and they should try to meet him there.
This happens, and when Paul is confronted by the Jews, Festus asks him if he wants to go to Jerusalem to be tried. Paul responds: "I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourselves know very well. If 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."
I have often wondered why Paul appealed to Caesar. We do know that the Lord came to Paul while he was in prison at Jerusalem and told him that he would preach the Gospel in Rome (23:11). But the Lord could have led him there without Paul's help. It's hard for me to conceive that Paul was afraid of the Jews at Jerusalem, but perhaps he was. It's not like the emperor was really sympathetic to the cause of the Christians, so it was probably not the wisest choice. Perhaps the two years in prison got the best of him. Maybe he was desperate to get out by any means possible, so he decided beforehand that the first time he got the chance he would appeal to Caesar. My conjecture may be completely wrong, but remember that Luke is simply telling us what happened. He is not giving us much commentary about whether Paul's decision was the right one or not.
Festus seems to have been a reasonable man, based on his conversation with Agrippa: "So when they (the Jews) came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man (Paul) to be brought. When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. Rather 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. Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. But 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." (25:17-21, ESV)