I was a child and I have children, so I know, when children want to hide things the go to a hidden part of the house, behind a tree, or a shady corner. They are doing this to keep from getting in trouble or others finding out their secret. They are trying to be sneaky.
In Acts 26 we read of Paul’s fourth trial, he has appealed to Caesar and is awaiting transport. Agrippa comes to town and Festus consults him for advice on what to do with this unjustly imprisoned prisoner. Who knows what Agrippa has heard concerning Paul, I speculate he has heard much of Paul’s activities.
Paul now has the opportunity to share the Gospel by sharing his story. He shares his Damascus road experience and his mission given to him by Jesus. He also explains his faithfulness to that mission is why the Jews want to kill him. Paul says enough about how Jesus transformed me, let me tell you about how He can transform you. Jesus who was foretold by the prophets, suffered and died and rose again from the dead to bring a message of light to the Jews and Gentiles.
You Are Out Of Your Mind
Festus’ first reaction is to tell Paul he is crazy. Why is it that when followers of Jesus share the Gospel people think we are crazy? Festus’ plausibility structure drove him to come to the conclusion that Paul was crazy. Joe Carter defines a plausibility structure in this way,
plausibility structures — belief-forming apparatus that acts as a gatekeeper, letting in evidence that is matched against what we already consider to be possible. Plausibility structures filter out claims that we believe cannot be reasonable or potentially true. They don’t necessarily tell us if a claim is true, only that the truth of the claim appears plausible enough for us to accept and that we are not wholly unwarranted in thinking it could be true. Whether we are gullible or skeptical, the beliefs we accumulate are those that have been filtered through plausibility structures at the individual and cultural level. These eventually form our worldview, which itself becomes a broad strainer that filters out beliefs that we won’t even consider to be possibly true.
Festus couldn’t believe because he was blinded by his unbelief, political power and the religion of Rome. Festus wouldn’t believe because he was a man in love with the glory of Rome and how the glory of Rome could give him his best life now. This was Festus’ worldview and if Christianity is true it will cause all of what Festus was living for to crumble to the ground.
Paul turns his sights to Agrippa in this courtroom drama that rivals a Perry Mason or Law and Order episode. I imagine Paul with boldness and a piercing glare telling Agrippa, “what I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice…King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
I wish we knew what was going on in the inner workings of King Agrippa’s mind. Did he think Paul was crazy? Did he think Paul was speaking the truth? Was he so in love with his sin it didn’t matter? King Agrippa left their a proud man, his final words to Paul “do you think you can persuade me to be a Christian in such a short time?”
Christ Did Not Hide In A Corner
One thing is clear from history, when Jesus came on the scene, it was more like shock and awe than kids hiding in the corner. Jesus had a very public ministry, with miraculous events popping up all over the region of Israel. People followed him in droves to hear him teach and possibly receive a miracle. The social structures were being shaken because of Christ ministry.
His ministry was a very public event, but so was his death. Hung on a cross for all to see. Festus and Agrippa could pretend this didn’t happen, but it was Roman record they knew it happened.
His resurrection was public too. Listen to what Paul writes to the Church in Corinth,
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
The only shady dark corner deal was between the chief priests and Roman guards,
11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
To say that the Jesus of the Gospels didn’t exist or say he didn’t do what the Gospels say he did is as atrocious as saying 9/11 didn’t happen, WW II is fictional or Pearl Harbor is a fabrication.
When we read Acts 26 it is almost as if Paul is testifying before us. Will we be like Festus and just brush him off as a loon because what we have been taught doesn’t quite square up with the Gospel? Our goals in life are more about serving me than serving the Lord and my neighbor? Will we be like Agrippa and brush off the Gospel because of pride and position? Or we will be like Paul and humbly submit to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and let it be the fuel of our lifes mission in our endeavors in this world?
Until Next Time
Soli Deo Gloria