The Resurrection of Jesus Christ Is the Real Reason
Chapter twenty-five is broken up into two halves in my ESV Study Bible for ease of reading (“Paul Appeals to Caesar,” vss. 1-12 and “Paul Before Agrippa and Bernice,” vss. 13-27), but we shall take the chapter as a whole as the second half elaborates on the first half and gives us information that explains what the controversy was all about in the first place. The first half of the chapter relates to us the arrival of the new governor Festus to Caesarea who made a journey to Jerusalem. There, he was accosted by the chief priests and elders and pressed to bring Paul from Caesarea to Jerusalem for trial, but not to try him but to kill him by ambush on the way down. Festus agrees to allow the Jewish leaders to come to Caesarea to decide the matter. At the trial it seems that the Jews level the same charges as before as Paul responds that he has committed no offense against Jewish law, the temple, or Caesar. When Festus asks Paul if he would agree to be tried before himself in Jerusalem (which he offered as a favor to the Jews), Paul, knowing that matters would not bode well for him there, appeals to Caesar as a Roman citizen. Festus grants his request.
But it is the second half of the chapter that drops the other foot. When discussing matters with King Agrippa on his visit to Caesarea to greet Festus, Festus shares the matter with the king. And it is there he says, “When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive.”
And therein lays the entire charade. Yes, we already knew that the charges laid against Paul were trumped up, and Paul himself proclaimed that he was on trial for his belief in the resurrection. But we must understand that it is this fundamental doctrine of the Church, that the Son of God was made man while remaining God, crucified and risen, that is so offensive to unbelieving ears. To the Jews then (and Muslims today), it was scandalous; to pagans, it is simply laughable (1 Corinthians 1:22). But never doubt the offense of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to unbelieving ears. If Christ is risen, then he is King of kings and Lords of lords, and must be Lord over our lives. And please understand, “resurrection” does not mean that only his soul came out of the tomb; it means that his body came out of the tomb. And as believers, his resurrection guarantees ours at the end of time. Sound foolish? Well, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).