The Children's Bible
A Prisoner Who Preached To His Judges
ome days later Felix came with his wife, Drusilla, who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard what he had to say about the faith in Christ Jesus. But when he talked about upright living, self-control, and the future judgment, Felix became alarmed and said, "You may go for the present; when I can find a convenient time I will send for you." All the time Felix was hoping that Paul would give him money, and for this reason he sent for him often and talked with him. But after two years had passed Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, who, wishing to win the favor of the Jews, left Paul in prison.
After Festus had been governor three days, he went up from Cesarea to Jerusalem. Then the high priests and the leading Jews made charges to him against Paul and begged Festus as a favor to send and have him brought to Jerusalem, for they were plotting to kill him on the way. But Festus answered that Paul would be kept in Cesarea and that he himself was going there in a short time. "Therefore," he said, "let your leading men go down with me and let them charge the man with whatever crime he has committed." After staying eight or ten days in Jerusalem, Festus went back to Cesarea.
The next day Festus took his place on the judgment seat and ordered Paul to be brought in. When he came, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem surrounded him and brought many and serious charges against him which they were unable to prove. In answer to them Paul said, "I have committed no crime against the Jewish law or the Temple or the Emperor."
But as Festus wished to win the favor of the Jews, he interrupted Paul with the question, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and be tried before me there on these charges?" Paul said, "I am standing before the Emperor's judgment seat, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you yourself very well know. If, however, I have broken the law or have committed any crime that deserves death, I am willing to die. But if there is no truth in any of their charges against me, then no man has the right to give me up to them. I appeal to the Emperor!" After talking with the council, Festus answered, "You have appealed to the Emperor, to the Emperor you shall go."
After some days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Cesarea to visit Festus. As they remained there for many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the King. Agrippa said to Festus, "I should like to hear the man myself." "You shall hear him to-morrow," said Festus. So the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with much pomp to the court-room, along with the commanders and the leading citizens; and at the command of Festus Paul was brought in. And Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to speak for yourself." At this Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense: "I am happy, King Agrippa, that I am permitted this day to defend myself before you against all the charges which the Jews have brought against me, for you know all about the Jewish customs and questions. So I beg of you to hear me patiently. All the Jews know the kind of life I lived from my youth, among the men of my own nation and in Jerusalem. As a Pharisee I lived according to the standards of the strictest party in our religion. I indeed believed that it was my duty to do all in my power to oppose the cause of Jesus of Nazareth. This I did in Jerusalem. With authority from the high priests, I put many of Jesus' followers in prison. When they were put to death, I voted against them. In all the synagogues I often punished them and tried to make them speak against the name of Jesus, and in my insane fury I followed them even to distant cities.
"When I was travelling to Damascus on this business, with written authority from the high priests, I saw, on the road in the middle of the day, a light from heaven, more dazzling than the glare of the sun, shining around me and those who were travelling with me. We fell to the ground, and I heard a voice say to me in Hebrew, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' I asked, 'Who art thou, Lord?' and the Lord answered, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Rise and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you so as to appoint you my servant and a witness to what you have seen and to the things that I will show you. I chose you from the Jews and the other peoples to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of their sins and a place among those who have given themselves to me because they believe in me.' O, King Agrippa, I have not disobeyed the heavenly vision. To this day I have had the help of God and have stood firm and, without adding a single word beyond what the prophets and Moses said would take place, I have testified to small and great how the Christ was to suffer and to be the first to rise from the dead and to proclaim the message of light not only to the Jews but to all peoples."
When Paul said these words in his defense, Festus cried, "Paul, you are mad! Your great learning is driving you insane!" But Paul said, "I am not insane, most noble Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. For the King, to whom I can speak freely, knows about these things, for I am sure that nothing escaped his notice, since this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do." But Agrippa said to Paul, "With but little persuasion you would make me a Christian!" Paul replied, "I pray to God that whether with little or much not only you but also every one who hears me this day may become a Christian as I am."
Then the King, together with the governor and Bernice and those who had been sitting with them, rose and, when they were alone, they said to one another, "This man has done nothing deserving of death or of imprisonment." And Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to the Emperor."