Acts 24 (NLT)
Paul Appears before Felix
Five days later Ananias, the high priest, arrived with some of the Jewish elders and the lawyer Tertullus, to present their case against Paul to the governor. 2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented the charges against Paul in the following address to the governor:
The high priest, some of the Jewish elders, and a top-notch lawyer — these folks are serious about getting Paul out of their hair!
Felix! Born a slave, the emperor Claudius made him a freedman. Felix went on to marry the granddaughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra and became the first slave in Roman history to be appointed a provincial governor. The ancient historian Tacitus says that he ruled as “a master of cruelty and lust who exercised the powers of a king with the spirit of a slave.” As we read on, we will see Felix’s propensity to try to turn any situation to his personal advantage.
you have provided a long period of peace for us Jews and with foresight have enacted reforms for us. 3 For all of this we are very grateful to you. 4 But I don’t want to bore you, so please give me your attention for only a moment. 5 We have found this man to be a troublemaker who is constantly stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the cult known as the Nazarenes. 6 Furthermore, he was trying to desecrate the Temple when we arrested him. 8 You can find out the truth of our accusations by examining him yourself.” 9 Then the other Jews chimed in, declaring that everything Tertullus said was true.
Plenty of accusations. But where is the supporting evidence?
10 The governor then motioned for Paul to speak. Paul said, “I know, sir, that you have been a judge of Jewish affairs for many years, so I gladly present my defense before you. 11 You can quickly discover that I arrived in Jerusalem no more than twelve days ago to worship at the Temple. 12 My accusers never found me arguing with anyone in the Temple, nor stirring up a riot in any synagogue or on the streets of the city. 13 These men cannot prove the things they accuse me of doing.
14 “But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. 15 I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. 16 Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people.
One of my favorite hymns, because it is so full of truth and so singable. “In Christ Alone” was written in 2002 by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. HERE is Adrienne Liesching, Geoff Moore & The Distance.
17 “After several years away, I returned to Jerusalem with money to aid my people and to offer sacrifices to God. 18 My accusers saw me in the Temple as I was completing a purification ceremony. There was no crowd around me and no rioting. 19 But some Jews from the province of Asia were there—and they ought to be here to bring charges if they have anything against me! 20 Ask these men here what crime the Jewish high council found me guilty of, 21 except for the one time I shouted out, ‘I am on trial before you today because I believe in the resurrection of the dead!’”
22 At that point Felix, who was quite familiar with the Way, adjourned the hearing and said, “Wait until Lysias, the garrison commander, arrives. Then I will decide the case.” 23 He ordered an officer to keep Paul in custody but to give him some freedom and allow his friends to visit him and take care of his needs.
Felix tried to walk a middle ground. He knew Paul was innocent, yet he did not want to identify himself with Paul’s gospel and the Christians. So he made no decision and kept Paul in custody.
24 A few days later Felix came back with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming day of judgment, Felix became frightened. “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.” 26 He also hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for him quite often and talked with him.
This brings to mind Herod Antipas’ interest with John the Baptist. Herod “was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him” (Mark 6:20). The difference is that Felix’s end motive was simple greed.
27 After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison.
Felix keeps Paul in prison, even while knowing his innocence. This brings to mind Pontius Pilate, who condemned Jesus even while knowing Christ’s innocence. The leaders do what is expedient rather than what is right.
from Peculiar Treasures,
by Frederick Buechner
Felix was the Roman governor of Cilicia. When Paul got into a knock-down drag-out with the Jerusalem Jews, Felix was the one that the Roman brass took him to in hopes of getting the matter settled once and for all. Paul’s Roman passport entitled him to a Roman hearing, and Felix gave it to him He seems to have listened sympathetically enough and to have had a fairly good understanding of both sides of the issue since on the one hand he already knew about the Christian movement and, on the other, he had a Jewish wife. Under the pretext of awaiting further evidence, he then placed Paul under custody but went out of the way to see to it that he was well taken care of. He could do what he wanted within reason, and his friends were allowed to supplement his rations from a kosher delicatessen.
The trouble came during a second interview a couple of days later. Felix had summoned him to find out how much his release was worth to him in hard cash, but with his usual tact Paul insisted on discussing justice, self-control, and future judgment instead. “Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” Felix said and sent him back to the pokey. He dropped in on him there from time to time to pursue his original line of inquiry, but Paul never seemed to zero in on what he was after.
With three squares a day, a roof over his head, and plenty of time to write letters, Paul had no major complaints apparently, and as long as Felix didn’t spring him, the Jews had no major complaints either. As for Felix himself, after two years he retired on a handsome government pension, leaving the problem of what to do with Paul for his successor to worry about. Felix, of course, means “the happy one” in Latin, and if happiness consists of having your cake and eating it too, he was well named.
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.