In Acts 27, Luke tells of Paul’s hearing before Governor Festus and King Agrippa II. This Agrippa is the son of “Herod Agrippa” – who was very antagonistic to the church. It was he who had James (the brother of John) executed (Acts 12:1-2). Seeing how much that pleased the Jews, he also had Peter arrested during the passover festival (Acts 12:3-4), although God sent an angel to free Peter from his jail cell.
Agrippa II was in some ways different from his Father. Although he also wanted to placate the Jews, he remained a VERY strong supporter of Rome. His sister Bernice was at one point mistress to Titus, otherwise known as Caesar Augustus. And during the Jewish revolt a few years from Acts 27, he sided with Rome.
But here, he is seen as a man who can at least be reasoned with. Paul is not so much presenting a defence as giving testimony to some of the most powerful men in the district. He notes in verse 21 that his arrest was not for temple desecration, but for daring to preach the gospel.
And I love Paul’s simple summary of his preaching: verse 20: that all must repent of their sins and turn back to God – and prove they have changed by the good things they do. And the key, says Paul (several times) is the resurrection. Jesus died, and was raised from the dead; giving all who follow him the same hope. This, Paul reminds us, is exactly what God had promised long ago: that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’;s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.
At this, Festus shouted out that Paul was crazy. Crazy that God might save Gentiles? No… crazy to speak of the resurrection! The idea of the resurrection was what caused these men (and Bernice) to stumble over Jesus.
But back to Paul – rather than giving a defence of himself, Paul is giving a defence of the gospel. In the hope not of winning his own freedom (he was going to Rome – and had he not appealed to Caesar could have been set free!), but of winning Festus, Agrippa and Bernice to freedom in Christ.
Lord, help me to not focus on myself, but on you. Let me not be so concerned about my own image, reputation, and status. Let me be concerned with the gospel. Lord, may my life’s story be a testimony to all that you have done. Make me bold, I pray. Even if those I speak to don’t become Christians, give me the words to speak when I have the opportunity.