“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26:19). Have you ever wondered what Apostle Paul meant by this?
An unusual prisoner.
Festus, the incoming Roman governor at Caesarea, inherited an unusual prisoner from Felix, the outgoing governor. The unusual prisoner was Paul the Apostle, who was imprisoned unjustly at Caesarea for two years (Acts 24: 27).
As Festus took over, Jewish leaders in Jerusalem asked him to send Paul to Jerusalem to be tried by them. He, to avoid a trial at Jerusalem by angry Jews, who caused his arrest, formally appealed to Caesar (per Roman law). Because Festus granted Paul’s appeal to be heard by Caesar at Rome (Acts 25: 12), he avoided the trial at Jerusalem, but was made to wait in the prison until the trip to Rome materialized.
Not long after Festus assumed his role as the local governor, King Agrippa paid him a surprise visit.
Paul’s case was so perplexing to Festus that he chose to take advantage of the king’s visit to ask his help in resolving his concerns about Paul, the unusual prisoner. Festus acknowledged that Paul had no charges worthy of imprisonment, much less a trip to Rome for a hearing before Caesar.
This is what Festus confessed to visiting King Agrippa:
“But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty [Caesar in Rome] about him [prisoner Paul]. 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 [to Caesar]. For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.” (Acts 25: 26-27).
A prisoner not focused on complaints.
At the formal hearing arranged for the king to hear Paul, he, who was in chains, told King Agrippa about an incident two years earlier (Acts 21: 31), when a commander of the local Roman troops saved Paul from a murderous mob of angry Jews at the Temple. After saving him from the mob, the commander chained and imprisoned Paul. This is how he summarized the event to the king:
“…some Jews [who were enraged by my teachings about Jesus Christ, and by the sight of my friends in the Temple] seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But God has helped me to this very day…” (Acts 26: 20-21).
It is notable that Paul, chained and imprisoned for two years for no punishable crime, was mindful of God’s help during his years of imprisonment. The king did not hear from Paul any complaint against God or the Roman authorities for keeping him imprisoned, or complaints about mistreatments, while in the Roman prison. He did not complain or express anger/displeasure about unjust loss of freedom, either.
Paul’s response to his vision.
Instead, he described to the king his vision on the way to Damascus and how he responded to his vision.
“On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, … (Acts 26: 12-13).
“I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic…’I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ (Acts 26: 14-15).