The Jewish antagonism towards Paul is persistent. They urgently request (v. 3) the new Roman governor Festus to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem for trial, intending to ambush and kill him along the way. Festus, however, comes to Caesarea where Paul is being held and Paul defends himself before authority again (v. 8), denying the charges of illegality, desecration, and treason.
Because Festus, like Felix before him, desires to please the Jews, Paul has no confidence in the new governor’s impartiality, particularly when Festus naively proposes holding the trial in Jerusalem, where Paul’s opponents are strongest. Instead, Paul claims his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar (v. 11). That right must be respected. Relieved of his responsibility for Paul’s case, Festus is more than happy to accede. Here, Paul claims his citizenship rights when, as far as he can see, to do so would be to further the witness of the gospel.
In Acts, Luke shows us the solidarity between Jesus’ ministry and that of His apostles. Jesus heals a paralytic, and so does Peter (Acts 3:1–10) and Paul (Acts 14:8–10). Jesus raises the dead, and so does Peter (Acts 9:36–42) and Paul (Acts 20:7–12).
In Luke, Jesus is declared innocent three times: twice by Pilate (Luke 23:4, 14) and once by Herod (Luke 23:15). Paul has been declared innocent by Roman commander Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:29); Festus declares him innocent in his report to Agrippa (Acts 25:25); and Agrippa will soon add his agreement (Acts 26:32).
Think about these two quotes from John Calvin in light of today’s reading:
“The more brightly the light of doctrine shines, so as to press more closely on wicked men, they are driven to a greater pitch of madness.”12
“No man is fit to preach the gospel, seeing the whole world is set against it, save only he which is armed to suffer.”13
12John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, trans. William Pringle (Edinburgh, Calvin Translation Society, 1845), II:159
13John Calvin, Commentary on Acts 9, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed 2 May 2018, http://www.ccel.org/study/Acts_9.