Acts 25: 7 When (the Roman official Festus) arrived, the Jews who had gone down from Jerusalem surrounded (Paul), bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove. 8 Paul said in his defense, “I have in no way committed an offense against the law of the Jews, or against the temple, or against the emperor.” 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, asked Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and be tried there before me on these charges?” 10 Paul said, “I am appealing to the emperor’s tribunal; this is where I should be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you very well know. 11 Now if I am in the wrong and have committed something for which I deserve to die, I am not trying to escape death; but if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can turn me over to them. I appeal to the emperor.” 12 Then Festus, after he had conferred with his council, replied, “You have appealed to the emperor; to the emperor you will go.”
There is a repeating pattern with the apostle Paul as he visited cities and towns to preach the gospel. Paul would begin his ministry among the Jews living in that location. Some would receive his message that Jesus was the promised Messiah, but some would not. The objectors would protest to the local Roman authority who would have Paul brought in for questioning. Paul never received the death sentence the Jewish leaders requested, but he would usually be jailed or flogged or both and then released. Paul’s ultimate goal was to speak to the emperor of Rome directly. If the emperor would receive the gospel, the entire Roman empire would be a much more hospitable place for Paul and other apostles. Christianity, freed from persecution, would flourish. In our passage today we read how Paul will finally get his wish – to appeal directly to the emperor.
Paul’s strategy worked. Sort of.
Unfortunately Paul would be executed in Rome. However, three centuries later, the dream of a Christian Roman emperor would come true. The emperor Constantine would welcome Christianity, which would become the official religion of the Roman empire. Western Christianity, from which several Christian denominations would come (including Lutheranism), was born.
Sometimes a good idea simply needs the right time to bear fruit. Lord give us patience when our plans appear to come to nothing. It could be, the right time is just around the corner. Amen.