Read the text here: Acts 25:23—26:33.

Before Paul makes the move to Rome, he first is brought before King Agrippa (Herod Agrippa II, the last Judean king before the end of Jewish rule in 70 CE). Agrippa expresses curiosity about Paul, and thus Paul is given the chance to make one climatic speech defining his ministry in front of the Roman authorities. Paul the prisoner; Paul the itinerant preacher; Paul the part-time tentmaker makes the case for Christianity in front of the King, his wife, and the Roman governor. It is a full-blown speech, created by Luke as a model for believers in Luke’s time who might be facing difficult circumstances and hostile responses by the authorities.

Here Paul comes face-to-face with power and privilege. First, he is met with intellectual curiosity (Agrippa). Soon the response includes a concern about Paul’s sanity (Festus), and then finally turns to skepticism and aloofness from all three present.

Let me write a bit about Agrippa’s response to Paul’s question in verse 27, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” Agrippa answers, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” The Greek is a bit ambiguous. Rather than a serious question, it’s more likely a witty retort, something along the lines of “You think you’re going to make a Christian out of me in such a short time?” (see L.T. Johnson, Acts of the Apostles, pp. 439-440 as well as Boring & Craddock, The People’s New Testament Commentary, p. 458). The “to be a Christian” phrase has the connotation of “making” a Christian or “performing the role” of a Christian.

Paul takes Agrippa’s reference to “a short time” and builds upon them, “whether short or long…I pray that…all would ‘perform my role.'” Perhaps Paul is suggesting that he doesn’t want bystanders to the faith but active witnesses such as he is.

The exchange ends with the assessment that Paul might have indeed been set free had he not appealed to Caesar. If Paul is hoping for an open and fair hearing before Caesar, he might have checked out the reputation of Emperor Nero first. Nero was known for many things, but rationality and fairmindedness were not among them (for starters, rumors abound that Nero’s mother Agrippina poisoned his uncle Claudius so that Nero could take the throne at age 16; what goes around comes around as eventually Agrippina would be murdered reportedly upon order of her son, Nero.) Hmmm…maybe Jerusalem and Caesarea aren’t that bad of venues after all!

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