But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”
For Paul, making this appeal must have been a major turning point. Paul was still a devout Jew, one who saw that the hopes of Judaism had been fulfilled in the person of Jesus, the Christ. How he loved his own people and yearned for their salvation. How he looked forward to the time when all Israel would turn to the Lord in faith, and when the kingdom of God would be established on the earth. His appeal to Caesar may well have been the final straw for Paul, indicating that Israel would not turn, and that God’s judgment was soon to come upon this nation, and particularly on the city of Jerusalem. With this appeal, I believe that all hope of Israel’s repentance and turning to the Lord was lost for the near future, and would only occur in the more distant future.
If Paul’s appeal was a deeply painful experience for him, it was perhaps even more traumatic event for Festus. It may have taken Festus a little time to realize this, however. From Luke’s account, I get the impression that when Paul appealed to Caesar, Festus turned to his counselors and said something like this: “Can he do that?” They assured him that he could, and so he indicated to Paul that his appeal would be honored.
Initially, Festus may have breathed a sigh of relief. He may very well have thought, “Well, now takes a load off my mind. Now I don’t have to take the heat for protecting Paul. Let Caesar get all the credit for this verdict.” Eventually, however, Festus had to realize that he had one very serious problem, a problem that was even greater than the one that had originally confronted him. At first, he was caught between Paul and the Jews who wanted him dead. Now, he was caught between Paul and Caesar.
The implications of Paul’s appeal to Caesar began to sink in, as Festus considered his plight. In the first place, Festus was required not only to send Paul to Caesar, but he was also required to send a full report with Paul of the circumstances leading to his appeal. Let’s suppose, for the moment, that he had a government form to fill out, in triplicate—for 2301 B. Paul could not be sent without the form, and the first thing that would be required on this form would be a listing of the charges against Paul. That was the problem every Roman official had faced since Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem. No Roman official was able to identify any charges! How could Festus send Paul to Caesar with no charges filed against him? Second, the absence of these charges was not only embarrassing, but the whole episode would be certain to reflect badly on Festus and his administration. Here he was, a new governor, seeking to establish himself with the Jews, and eager to prove himself to Caesar, who had appointed him. And his first case results in an appeal. His first case has not even gotten to the point of identifying the exact nature of the alleged defense! He was in a bunch of trouble.
If Paul’s light was on, late that night, it was probably because he was reading the Scriptures or meeting with some saints, or writing an epistle, or praying. But one thing is for sure, the light of Festus was on late that night, and for many nights thereafter. He was sitting up, staring off into space, sweating profusely, wondering what he could possibly write to Caesar which would explain the presence of Paul and of his appeal.