Acts 26:24-29 (NIV)
At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “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, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Paul replied, “Short time or long–I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
Festus was impressed by Paul’s wisdom and learning. He was an impressive individual. But all this talk about visions and resurrection from the dead was too much for him. That was the source of his exclamation that Paul’s great knowledge had driven him insane.
But Paul pushed back against the accusation. He knew that he was not insane but was merely presenting the facts as they had happened. Many of the Romans prided themselves on being very rational. Unfortunately, that usually meant that they discounted entirely anything supernatural. And Paul’s testimony was chock full of the supernatural.
Paul’s appeal to Agrippa was reasonable. These ideas might be novel to Festus, a newcomer to the region. But Agrippa had been brought up in the area and was still frequently in and around Jerusalem for religious feasts and would have been quite aware of many of the things that Paul was talking about.
But Paul went one step further. He was not willing to let what might be his only chance to urge Agrippa to receive Jesus go by without finding out if he was ready to do that. He had made the case that everything that Jesus said and did was foretold in the Scriptures, in both the law and the prophets. Agrippa claimed to be an adherent to the Jewish faith, although not of Jewish blood. So, Paul began by asking if Agrippa truly believed the prophets. If he did, there was a basis to move forward with him.
But Agrippa was not ready yet. Even though he had read or heard the prophets, he had not heard before that they had predicted the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. His response to Paul sounded dismissive. But He was really just saying that many of the ideas Paul was presenting were so new to him that he was unwilling to make a snap decision to become a Christian.
Paul had the information that he needed. He had planted the best seed that he had, but the soil of these hearts was not ready to be harvested yet. But he closed with his simple statement that, even if they were not ready right then, he was still praying that the seed would continue to grow, and that everybody in the room would come to the point where they could become a Christian just like Paul (except for the chains, of course!).
Father, Paul always impresses me. He was never off duty, and never off message. Even at his own trials he consistently lifted up the name of Jesus and was looking for every opportunity to urge his hearers to believe in Him. Help me, Lord, to have that same passion, that same 24/7 devotion to the cause of Christ, today and every day. Amen.
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