Get a Grip Festus (part one)

And Festus said: “King Agrippa …you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he was not fit to live any longer. Acts 25:24

King Agrippa, what do I do with this pesky Jew? All of his people want him dead, he is a Roman citizen and I can’t just turn him over. He has this crazy Jesus thing going on that I don’t get and he’s as wiley as a fox and as innocent as a lamb all at once—and nothing rattles him. What is going on here? Huh… can you shed some light on this?”

“Oh wait, you’re just smoke and mirrors, a well-dressed bumbling fool just doing what you’re told to appease the clamoring crowd who needs to feel like they still have some say in things. ‘Hail King Agrippa, the puppet king of the Jews.’”

“It’s hopeless, maybe I can just ride this out and hope it all goes away before it blows up in my face.’

Poor Festus, he finally made it. Living in the finest place in Judea in the beautiful coastal city of Caesarea, the governor of a huge province with the power of an empire behind him.

Yet he is at a loss as to what to do with just this one man who seems to have the whole region riled up—for what? Some silly argument over their way too complicated religion? Who can understand it all anyway and who cares?

‘Steward! Bring me some more wine!

“What other chaos do I have to deal with today? There must be something I can fix today.”

Spinning out of Control

Do you ever feel like everything is spiraling out of control and you are losing a grip on everything? We all want to be in control, to have everything in order and know that it’s all going according to plan, preferably our plan—’um, what is my plan? I dunno but this wasn’t it!’

You all know where I’m going with this right? No, not the puppet king in the Whitehouse, that’s just one of many things that can drive us to the brink if we let it. I’m talking about trust. Not losing our grip.

Realizing that we cannot control everything around us and that seldom do things seem to go according to plan—That’s Christianity 101, the plans are the Lord’s and we have to trust in him. That’s what the whole of scripture points to, that’s what Jesus lived and taught, not my will but thine be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

But it’s just not in our nature to let go and trust completely, to look for the Lord’s plan and patiently follow even as it unfolds frustratingly slow, often just step by step, while trusting that the end he has revealed to us will be our destination. Often we know where we are going, like Paul going to Rome, we just don’t know how we are getting there—yet. That’s where the letting go and trust comes in, but we have to.

Because it is the lack of letting go, trusting, being brave enough to do what we know we must do while trusting the results to the Lord, that can drive us buggy and leave us frustrated and anxious.

That’s what’s going on in today’s chapter of study. Paul, the one who seems to be at the mercy of everyone else, is the only one who is not stressed about his fate and anxious about clinging to what he thinks he has. Maybe because he has nothing, while knowing that in reality, he has everything. He has Jesus and he has the assurance that he is exactly where he is supposed to be, even if it’s not what most would consider a happy place.

But the true happy places are found in the heart, not the accoutrements or the scenery. You can be in the most beautiful place on earth surrounded by luxury and security and still feel totally out of control and threatened by circumstances that appear to be beyond your control. Why can’t I just. . .?! You fill in the blank.

That’s the point, you can’t. But God can.

The Scripture

“Now when Festus had come to the province, after three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. Then the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they petitioned him, asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem—while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him. But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly.  “Therefore,” he said, “let those who have authority among you go down with me and accuse this man, to see if there is any fault in him.”

  And when he had remained among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day, sitting on the judgment seat, he commanded Paul to be brought. When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove,  while he answered for himself, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all.” Acts 26:1-8

So the saga of, Let’s kill Paul, continues. Subtitled, How do we get rid of this pestilent fellow— why won’t you die? Or, the Roman sub title, I don’t know why these crazy Jews want to kill you but it sure is annoying, if not entertaining.

And my personal favorite, Get Agrippa Festus!

Paul has been held for two years now at the palace of the Judean governor in Caesarea, first under Felix, and now under the new governor, Festus.

There is by now a new High Priest, Ananias has been replaced with a man named Ishmael, which we don’t learn here in the text because, well, I guess he just wasn’t that important. But it is rumored that he liked to announce himself by proclaiming “Call me Ishmael.” (Lame I know) And, like Moby Dick’s Ishmael, he would become obsessed with destroying something much bigger than him, but would ultimately fail spectacularly.

High Priest Ismael, like his predecessors, was out of control.

Once again these religious elites, the spiritual leaders and arbiters of God’s truth would scheme, lie, plot, and even personally lie in wait to ambush and murder a man because he had the audacity to worship the Father through Jesus whom he claimed to be the Christ, the Son of God and Savior of all who believe.

They are determined, you have to give them that. The level of hatred, spurred on by a misplaced zeal for an ideology that they justify by pretending that it is God whose laws and worship that they protect, is astounding. And the unabashed selfishness in the level of conniving they are driven to has turned them into a mockery of what the leaders of God’s people and the keepers of his covenant and word were supposed to be.

Their hearts are far from God despite the trappings and pretense of religion and piety.

A good lesson on what happens when the worship of the living God is reduced to liturgy and ritual. When it does not penetrate past the exterior and into the heart. A person can say and do all the seemingly right things, have everyone believing that they are godly and righteous beyond reproach, yet be dead and dark inside.

Nature abhors a vacuum and when God is missing from a heart, anger, stress and even hatred will move in at the first opening. We sure see that happening here.

This is all about their pride and power. What a sad place for them to be in.

Where are you? Do you have a grip? If you are in Christ, you need to let go and let him…

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