Today’s passage takes place when the Jewish King Agrippa and his sister, Bernice came to visit the Roman Governor, Festus. King Agrippa was king of Judea, a territory of the present emperor, Nero. When Jesus Christ was born in the manger, there is the famous story of all the boys under 2 being killed. That was under the rule of Herod great, the great grandfather of Nero. Also Herod Antipas who had John beheaded was his father’s uncle. Also Herod Agrippa I which killed James by the sword in Acts 12 is his father. His father did not give God glory so he was bitten by worms and died. Therefore, this Agrippa is Agrippa II.
This Agrippa who was strongly tied to Christianity came to visit Festus. The contents are a repeat of what Luke has already written about it, but the reason for Luke including this passage is written in verse 19. In other words, about ”Jesus who died” Paul says “Jesus is alive”. Paul wanted to share this. That is because this is the central part of the Gospel message. This isn’t just a message, but it is the joyful hope for all living, believing Christians. It is the strength for radically changing a person’s life. Today let’s look at 3 things about “Jesus is alive”.
1. Jesus is alive (vs.13-19)
First let’s look at the fact that Jesus is alive. When King Agrippa and his sister came to visit Festus, “Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king.” (14) What he said about the case is recorded in verses 14 to 21. What he says is a rerun of chapter 23 to 25. Here Festus claims that although his predecessor, Felix, was irresponsible and delayed the court judgment, he was different. He took on the responsibility and worked quickly to eliminate the problem. However, what they were charging him for was more than Festus had anticipated. There were charging him for things related to their own religion. It also had to do with the Jesus who had died. Paul claims that Jesus is alive.
In 23:6 and 24:15 we saw them arguing over “the hope of the resurrection of the dead”. This referred to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, Paul is talking bearing in mind that Jesus Christ rose and is now alive too. The reason that this is so important is that if this is true then what Paul is claiming is also true. It would be decisive proof that Jesus is the son of God, the Messiah. If death is the end, then there is no problem. However, if Jesus really did rise from the dead, then that is what the Old Testament prophets had prophesized so this is the ultimate proof that Jesus would be the Messiah. Not only that, but that would make a huge influence on the life we live.
This is the central thing that Luke wanted to say in Acts. All through Acts we read Peter’s and Paul’s messages. The central point was that Christ has risen and is alive. Christ arose and has been alive these 2,000 years.
For example, at Pentecost Peter gave a message. In 2:32 he says, “God has raised the Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.”
Also in chapter 3 when Peter and John went to the gate called Beautiful they healed a crippled beggar. As they were entering the temple, the man begged them for money. They looked at the man in the eyes and said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (6) They helped him up and he started walking. “Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” (9) This happened because Jesus Christ is alive. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, but 3 days later he rose again. The name of Jesus healed, strengthened and made this man stand up. Therefore, “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.” (4:33)
The central point of the apostles’ message was that Jesus, who was put on the cross, rose and is now here. This is what Paul and claimed and is the central message that we should be sharing in this present age. Faith that believes in Jesus Christ, doesn’t just study about things that happed 2,000 years ago, but fellowships with Christ who didn’t just rise, but is here even now. This is experiencing Jesus.
II. Faith in the resurrection changes people. (vs.20, 21)
This faith changes the way we live. In verse 20 and 21 Festus’ attitude toward Paul’s claim that Jesus rose and now lives is recorded. He says, “I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges.” (20) However, this is a lie. The real reason he asked Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there is given in 25:9. That was because Festus was “wishing to do the Jews a favor.” In other words Festus was afraid of his relationship with the Jews going bad. Therefore, he wanted to do a favor to them. If his relationship with the Jews went sour, then his position would be at stake. He thought by taking Paul to Jerusalem and having him tried there would gain the favor of the Jews. However, Paul was against this and appealed to Caesar. Festus was required to send Caesar an explicit report on the case when an appeal was made, but Festus was in a great panic trying to write the report as we can see in verses 26 and 27.
“His Majesty” refers to Caesar. Festus is calling Caesar, “His Majesty”. This is a religious term used for God. Before, the Roman emperor Augusts and Tibelius said that those were words for god and therefore, stopped their use for themselves. In other words, for Festus, Caesar was god. Festus feared Caesar like god. In all ages it is the same. People fear their relationship with others going bad. Therefore, they seek favor with them and work to protect their position.
However, Christians are different. Christians who testify that Jesus rose and is now here with them don’t try to win favor nor do they fear the governors, high priests or emperors. That is because when they know God’s will, no matter how many years it take, they make that their plead and move forward, not staggering even one step, and with a steadfast heart move forward towards the will of God. If Rome, then towards Rome. If Spain, then towards Spain. They only want to live to be used by God. That is because they believe that Christ has risen and is now here. If Christ has risen, then in the coming judgment too, the Lord will judge righteously. If we prepare for this judgment, and live before God and before men, so that we have nothing to be accused of and we have a clear conscious, that’s enough. There is no reason to fear. Therefore, to believe in the resurrection, brings a radical revolution to our faith, our lives, and the prospects of our future.
Christ was put on the cross, died and 3 days later rose again. And now today through the Holy Spirit is working. He is always with us in our lives.
III. Live in the faith of the resurrection (vs. 23, 24)
The next day Agrippa and Bernice came again “with great pomp”. The word “with great pomp” that is used is “fantaji” the root for English “fantasy”. In other words it went beyond the impressive clothes, decorations, music, etc. that are traditional for an important official or public ceremony to the point of being almost like a fantasy or dream. It was like a parade of the Daimyo in old Japan.
In contrast, Paul was brought in at the command of Festus. He looked like a prisoner. However, in reality the spot light is on Paul. That is because by this what Jesus prophesized is fulfilled. “They will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.” (Luke 21:12)
This promise is now being fulfilled here. Another way of saying it is Jesus who rose and now lives led this, that this is a great chance to testify to the Gospel. Whether it is by a prisoner in chains or not, whether it is being made fun out of by questioning or not, if it is a chance to speak about the Gospel, for Paul that was a blessing. All things are in the hands of God. Believing that the risen Jesus is leading, let’s life a life of faith in the resurrection. Paul said the following.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (II Cor. 4: 8-10)
Jesus is living so even in continuing days of suffering,we are not crushed, and we are not in despair, but can keep walking. Because Jesus is alive we are not abandoned nor destroyed, but can continue living. From this passage a person said, “A Christian can be knocked down, but not knocked out”. That is true. We can be “struck down, but not destroyed.” A person with the life of Jesus, can live this kind of life. That is because the resurrected Jesus is always with us and supporting us. Luke wanted here not to share that Paul was claiming that Jesus is living, but he wanted to show that Jesus is alive by the claims of Paul. By leaning on the support of our living Lord, Jesus, let’s stand strongly and walk in our faith.