Sunday, July 29, 2012

Acts, Chapters 25 & 26: Kangaroo Court

Chapter 25

Festus finally arrives and the chief priests immediately ask that the proceedings be moved to Jerusalem so they can kill Paul en route. Festus says no, he'd rather go to Caesarea, and invites the ones who want to testify against Paul to join him.

Ten days later, he leaves for court. The Jews have a lot of complaints, but no evidence. Paul simply says he hasn't done anything wrong. So Festus asks him if he wants to come to Jerusalem for yet another trial, and Paul's like, 'Uh, this is the secular court. They want to try me in the religious courts. I'll stay where I am, thanks.' He appeals to Caesar, so Festus decides to shuffle him along through the bureaucracy to Caesar.

A couple of days later, the king and his sister arrive to pay their respects to Festus. Festus asks the king's advice about Paul. The king agrees to act as an appeals court. The next day, Festus introduces the king with a flowery speech.

Chapter 26

The king, Agrippa, invites Paul to speak on his own behalf. Amazingly, he starts off by sucking up to Agrippa, saying I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently (v. 3). He gives his life story, about how he was a fanatical Pharisee who became a fanatical Christian, And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers (v. 6). He wonders why anyone would find it weird that god would raise people from the dead. Someone's been reading too much vampire fanfic.

He talks about how he used to persecute the early Christians (or Jewish heretics, to be more accurate) until he had a hallucination epiphany on the road to Damascus and became a new kind of zealot. Now he's been caught and put on trial, but he still finds people to hector. Festus responds with perhaps the most hilarious thing anyone has said in this entire book, an admittedly low bar to jump over: Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad (v. 24).

Paul insists he isn't crazy and asks Agrippa if he believes the prophets. Agrippa says Paul has almost converted him, and Paul says he'd love to talk at all of them until they're so worn down they also convert just to shut him up.

Agrippa calls a recess and takes his sister and Festus off to the side to whisper that if Paul hadn't appealed to Caesar, he'd be free by now.

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