Do You Know Jesus Is Alive? | Charles Auld
Paul’s trial before Festus
1 Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, 2 where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. 3 They requested Festus, as a favour to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. 4 Festus answered, ‘Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.’
6 After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. 7 When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood round him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.
8 Then Paul made his defence: ‘I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.’
9 Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favour, said to Paul, ‘Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?’
10 Paul answered: ‘I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!’
12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: ‘You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!’
Festus consults King Agrippa
13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. 14 Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: ‘There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.
16 ‘I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. 17 When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus whom Paul claimed was alive. 20 I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21 But when Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.’
22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear this man myself.’
He replied, ‘Tomorrow you will hear him.’
Paul before Agrippa
23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said: ‘King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. 27 For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.’
Jesus is Alive
When Festus explained to King Agrippa what he had grasped of the dispute between the Jewish leaders and Paul, he summed it up like this: ‘they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus whom Paul claimed was alive.’
Festus obviously didn’t see what all the fuss was about, but he got the main point right. The main issue was then and still is today: is Jesus alive or not? Not many people doubt that he lived and that he died. There is plenty of proof of that. But did he rise to new life – is he alive today? And if you believe he is, what difference does that belief make to your life?
Anyone needing to go to court and face a magistrate or a judge and jury soon discovers that the law is extremely complicated and doesn’t always match what you think would make for justice. Because most of us subscribe to a folklore view of law, not having studied it, we can be surprised by what the judge takes as the basis for his judgement.
This folklore approach is understandable for such a complex field as law, but we see something similar with how many people approach the essential questions of life and death. A folklore religion is very prevalent in our society. How many people have a basic belief that ‘nice people go to heaven’ or alternatively like Woody Allen, that ‘Life is hard and then you die’!
And yet in contrast with the tomes of lawbooks that would need to be digested, we only need to read one book to find the answers to those essential questions: the Bible. In fact in less than two hours we could just read Mark’s Gospel, and find out all we need to know about Jesus. The Bible tells us that God created human beings for a loving relationship with each other and with him, but humankind rebelled and the penalty was death. It tells that God so loved us that he himself became human and paid that penalty on the cross for every single person who comes to him, and that he rose from the dead as proof that the penalty had been paid.
With Jesus alive today, all we need to do to know eternal life is turn away from what grieves him and come towards him. In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus tells how everyone will meet him face to face – either as their Lord and Saviour or their judge.
If you were asked: ‘Is Jesus alive today or not? Does it make a difference to your life?’, how would you answer?