Felix had left the government of Palestine without ever making a decision about Paul. Whereupon, after Festus arrived at Caesarea and had gone up to Jerusalem, he was informed by the Jewish authorities there that Paul, Festus’ prisoner, ought not to live. However, Festus wouldn’t agree to send for Paul to be brought to Jerusalem, because he thought it better for his accusers to come with him to Caesarea an there make their case against Paul (Acts 25:1-5).
The problem was the Jews made accusations, but were unable to prove anything, and this surprised Festus, for he was expecting some kind of evidence to warrant their demands for execution. However, he made the mistake of wishing to please the Jewish authorities and thereby begin his term as their governor on friendly terms. He asked Paul, since Festus was unfamiliar with Jewish law, if he were willing to go to Jerusalem and be judged by the Sanhedrin in his (Festus’) presence? Paul made it known to Festus that it should be obvious to the governor that he had committed no crime worthy of death, which would have been the sure outcome of such a trial. So, Paul appealed to be heard by Caesar to settle the matter (Acts 25:6-11).
Festus agreed to send Paul to Rome and, in so doing, showed the method by which the Lord’s promise to Paul that he would preach the Gospel there would be fulfilled. The problem was Festus didn’t know how to word the accusation against Paul. Since he already knew Paul had committed no crime worthy of death? Why send him to Caesar as though Paul’s situation was too complicated for the governor to judge?
It is interesting, is it not, how politics never changes? Felix used Paul as his pawn hoping to get gold through bribery. Festus thought of using Paul as a pawn to develop a good relationship with the Jewish authorities early in his governorship. Both in the 1st century and today, those in authority often have little regard for the powerless, as they, the powerful, maneuver people and events to favor their own position.
In any case, Festus held Paul at Caesarea for awhile longer until King Agrippa arrived with his wife to welcome the new governor. Festus told the king of his predicament that he thought the Jewish authorities would have been able to provide some evidence for their accusations against Paul, but, instead, he found their claims based upon their own religious believes rather than any crime. Nevertheless, when Festus made the mistake of asking Paul if he wished to settle the matter in Jerusalem, Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen to be heard by Caesar. King Agrippa agreed to hear Paul as well, and with him some of the important authorities at Caesarea, and Festus explained to them that he wished to have something to show Caesar concerning why he was sending Paul to him (Acts 25:24-26).
This seems to me to have been an embarrassing situation for Festus, and may imply a basic honesty as part of the governor’s character. He found himself between a rock and a hard place and could possibly be willing to bear the embarrassment rather than have Paul killed to save face. Nevertheless, we cannot know for certain what Festus had written to Caesar against Paul, and we are not certain that Paul was ever released once he arrived at Rome. In the end perhaps Paul met his end before Nero as part of a political maneuver, as a pawn to ease the tension that seem to plague the mighty.