Some days later, King Agrippa II and his sister Bernice made a courtesy call to Festus in Caesarea. After many more days, Festus informed Agrippa about Paul and asked for assistance in presenting his case to Nero.
Agrippa became interested in Paul and asked to hear him. A meeting was arranged. Paul’s meetings with the governors and Agrippa fulfilled the statement that Christ had made to Ananias during Saul’s (Paul’s) conversion many years earlier when He had said that he would “bear my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel.” Paul was standing before rulers and kings.
The meeting between King Agrippa, Governor Festus and the prisoner, Paul was one of great contrasts. Agrippa knew much about the Jewish religion and probably had a desire to learn more about Christianity from Paul.
Festus was not a religious man and only tolerated the religions about him. He wanted to release Paul, but since the Jews were so important to him, he did not want to offend them by releasing him.
Agrippa, Bernice, Festus, commanders and prominent men of the city entered the auditorium with great pageantry and were seated. Paul, the prisoner, was brought in and stood before the king.
Festus had the same problem that faced Lysias and Felix. He hoped that their meeting would produce a formal charge that could be sent to Rome. “For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him.”
Since Paul had not been understood by Lysias, Felix or Festus, he was happy to be permitted to speak to Agrippa, who had a greater understanding of the Jews and their customs.
Paul began by stating his background in the Jewish religion and how the Jews knew of his zeal in persecuting Christians. There was a great contrast between Saul, the persecutor and the man speaking to the king. He explained that he was a Pharisee and was being accused because of his belief in the resurrection of the dead—a main belief of the Pharisees and the hope of the twelve tribes of Israel.
As he continued his speech before Agrippa, Paul related the events that occurred as he was going to Damascus to bind Christians and take them back to Jerusalem. He told of seeing the bright light that blinded him and related his conversation with Christ, who had given him the commission to preach the gospel. One can easily reason that Paul would not have endured the persecutions that he had faced if the story of his conversion had been untrue.
Paul stated that he obeyed the heavenly vision and began preaching in Damascus, Jerusalem, throughout Judea and then to the Gentiles. He explained that for those reasons, the Jews had seized him in the temple and that the protection from God had allowed him to survive his persecutions and to stand before Agrippa that day.
In continuing his remarks, Paul said that he had preached only what the prophets and Moses had said would come—“that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
Festus had heard enough. He interrupted Paul and said that he was beside himself and that much learning was driving him out of his mind. Paul’s reply was courteous and to the point. He contended that he was speaking words of truth and reason and that the king knew what he was saying was true.
Paul then turned his attention to Agrippa. He asked the king if he believed the prophets and answered his own question in the affirmative.
Agrippa was at the point of either rejecting the prophets or agreeing with Paul. He said, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
Paul replied, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.” He was bound with the chains of a prisoner, but the chains of ignorance, arrogance, indifference and sin bound those who heard him.
The meeting ended. Agrippa and the others stood up and after conferring among themselves concluded that Paul had done nothing wrong. Since he had appealed to Caesar, he must be sent to Rome.