Scripture Reference: Acts 24-26
Suggested Emphasis: Tell others about Jesus.
Paul had been falsely accused of starting riots and defiling the temple. Although innocent of these accusations Paul was kept in prison in Caesarea where he appeared before a succession of governors and leaders including Felix, Festus and even the Jewish King Agrippa. At each court appearance Paul spoke freely about his Christian faith. His accusers could never prove him guilty and Paul eventually used his right as a Roman citizen to ask to be sent to Rome to appear before Caesar’s court.
Previously, in Jerusalem (see Paul’s Nephew Uncover a Plot), Paul had been attacked and falsely accused of causing riots and defiling the temple. Wishing to avoid civil unrest a Roman commander had secretly transferred Paul, under protective guard, to the governor’s court in the city of Caesarea Maritima.
The city of Caesarea Maritima, on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, was built up by Herod the Great and the remaining ruins can be visited today. Herod constructed a large port and a grand palace. Caesarea became the centre of Roman government for the Judea region and was also home to the Roman legion. Earlier, in Acts, it was home to the first Gentile Christian, Cornelius. (see Cornelius Becomes a Christian).
The current lesson opens with Paul under guard in Herod’s Palace awaiting the arrival of his accusers from Jerusalem. Prisoners would have been kept in the palace because it served as a place to conduct Roman government business as well as a residence. You can read more about Caesarea and view photographs and maps at websites such as biblehistory.com, biblewalks.com, bibleplaces.com or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesarea_Maritima.
Because he was a Roman citizen Paul’s rights were protected and his original accusers from Jerusalem had to make their case against him before a Roman official. Eventually, Paul would stay on in Caesarea Maritima for more than two years and appear before a number of government officials and important people. In every case he took advantage of the opportunity to speak about Jesus.
- Appearing Before Governor Felix: (Acts 24:1-26) This first court appearance took place five days after Paul arrived in Caesarea. The High Priest, Ananias, and a lawyer came from Jerusalem to make their accusations before Felix. But after hearing from both sides Felix was not convinced of the accusations. He dismissed Ananias and the other accusers and said he would decide the case when the original commander from Jerusalem came to the court in Caesarea. This seems to be a move by Felix to stall the proceedings. Although he allowed Paul some freedom and let his friends tend to him Felix kept Paul in prison for two years hoping in vain that Paul would give him a bribe to secure his freedom. Paul was able to talk about Jesus often. Although Felix and his wife, Drusilla, often called Paul out of the prison just to hear him talk about faith in Jesus they never made a committment.
- Appearing Before Governor Porcius Festus: (Acts 24:27-25:12) After the two years had passed a new governor, Porcius Festus, replaced Felix. As the new ruler of Judaea Festus wanted to keep the Jews on his side. Just three days after being installed Festus travelled up to Jerusalem where the Jewish leaders unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to transfer Paul there. Festus did not comply to their wishes so, once again, the Jewish leaders had to travel down to Caesarea and appear before Festus’ official court. Even so, they were still unable to make a case. Paul defended himself. Still trying to appease the Jews Festus asked Paul if he was willing to travel to Jerusalem to stand trial. Paul not only refused but also used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar. Festus was now obligated to send Paul to Rome to the highest courts.
- Appearing Before King Agrippa, High Officials and Men of the City: (Acts 25:13-26:32) While Festus was still contemplating this turn of events, the King of the Jews, King Agrippa, and his wife, Bernice, came to Caesarea Maritima to pay their respects to the new governor. King Agrippa was the Jewish leader approved by Rome so, again, Festus needed to impress him. Festus told them all about the prisoner (Paul) and how the former governor, Felix, had left him with this dilemma. Agrippa found this very interesting and wanted to meet Paul. Felix planned a large and ostentatious gathering with Agrippa, high-ranking officials and the important men of the city. During the gathering Paul was brought before the group. Paul did not waste this opportunity to share his testimony with all of these important people. He told about his formal education, strict adherence to Jewish law and his fanatical campaign against Christians before he eventually encountered Jesus. He described, in detail, what Jesus had told him to do (see Paul Becomes a Christian). Agrippa and the others were impressed with what Paul had to say.
“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ,Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’
Paul replied, ‘Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.'” Acts 26:28-29, NIV
Agrippa told Festus that Paul could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar. He agreed that Festus now had no choice but to send Paul to Rome.
- What happened before this story?
- What happens after this story?
- List of all Bible stories and themes on this website.
Way to Introduce the Story:
“Let’s play a game. Let’s pretend that everyone who has the letters “A,E,I, O, or U” in their name has a disease called NOSE DISEASE. This pretend disease will make grow an extra nose tonight when you are sleeping. That would be terrible!!! No one want’s to grow an extra nose, do they?
Now, let’s pretend that I know some special words that will make Nose Disease go away. Would you want me to tell you the special words? Of course you would! You would feel very sad if I knew the special words but refused to tell you. Who wants to hear the pretend words?” (You could whisper something like “nose, nose, blow away” in each child’s ear).
Did you know that Paul had something very special to tell people? Something that would save them from something even worse than Nose Disease? Paul wanted to tell everyone about Jesus because Jesus could save everyone from their sins. Today we are going to learn how Paul told people about Jesus even when he was in a court room.
Paul was a man who loved God. He was a missionary who travelled to many places telling people about Jesus. He was also an educated man and a Roman citizen. Being a Roman citizen meant that Paul had special rights.
Not everyone liked Paul. The High Priest and other Jewish leaders from Jerusalem had accused Paul of being a trouble-maker. They said he had disrespected God’s temple and that he had tried to cause riots. They wanted him put to death.
But, since Paul was a Roman citizen, he had the right to appear before a Roman official. A Roman official could decide whether or not the accusations were fair and true.
So Paul was taken to the Roman city of Caesarea for a trial before the Roman governor, Felix. The Jewish leaders who had accused Paul brought a lawyer, Tertullus, with them to the trial. The lawyer tried to convince the governor that Paul deserved to be punished.
Finally, Paul was given the chance to speak to Felix, the governor. He told Felix that he was not a trouble-maker. He had been to the temple but he showed respect when he was there. He said that he worshipped God but he followed the way of Jesus.
He said that other people were making false accusations against him and that Felix could check this out by investigating the facts.
But Felix did not want to make a decision yet. He said he would keep Paul in prison until the Roman commander from Jerusalem came to Caesarea and told his side of the story.
So Paul stayed in the prison in the place known as Herod’s Palace. Festus allowed him some freedom and let Paul’s friends take care of him. Festus and his wife, Drusilla, also liked to invite Paul to come to them and talk about faith in Jesus Christ.
But Festus did not want to follow Jesus. In fact, part of the reason he kept listening to Paul was because he hoped Paul would pay him a bribe to get out of prison. But Paul did not pay a bribe and ended up staying in prison for 2 years.
When Felix’s time as the Roman governor finished a new governor named Festus took his place. Once again, the Jews from Jerusalem made accusations against Paul. They told Festus that he should send Paul to Jerusalem so he could have a trial there. But really it was just a trick so they could kill Paul.
Even though Festus wanted to keep the Jewish leaders happy he told them he planned to have the trial in Caesarea where all official Roman government business took place.
So, back in Caesarea, Festus asked Paul to tell his side of the story. After hearing this Festus knew the Jews did not have enough proof against Paul. But Festus did not want to make a decision and risk making them angry. He asked Paul if he would be willing to go back to Jerusalem and let the Jewish make the decision. Paul knew that the Jews would probably kill him if he went back to Jerusalem so he did not want to go.
He had been in prison for two years and Paul knew it was time to remind the governor that he was a Roman citizen. “If this Roman court cannot make a decision,” Paul said, “then, as a Roman citizen, I want to make an appeal to the higher courts of Caesar in Rome.”
Festus knew that Paul was right so he said that his request was granted. Paul would now be going to Rome.
Meanwhile, Festus had a visit from King Agrippa and his wife, Bernice. The Roman government recognized Agrippa as the King of the Jews so Festus told him all about the Jews accusing Paul. King Agrippa found this very interesting and asked to meet Paul.
So the governor decided to gather all the city leaders and King Agrippa together in one big and important meeting. The meeting had many ceremonies and probably lots of speeches. Paul was called to speak in front of all of these important people.
What do you think Paul talked about? Do you think he begged them to let him out of prison? No, Paul used this opportunity to tell these important people all about Jesus! Paul told Agrippa that for many years he had been like the other Jewish leaders. He used to think Christians were trouble-makers too. But now he knew the truth. Jesus had come to him in a vision. Now he followed Jesus and always tried to tell people about Jesus.
Paul said that God wanted everyone to hear about Jesus. This is the reason the Jews wanted to kill him. When he said that Festus interrupted him and said, “Paul, you have been studying so much that you are going crazy!”
But Paul was not crazy. He just wanted everyone to know about Jesus and how Jesus can forgive their sins. He even told King Agrippa that he wanted him to follow Jesus too. But King Agrippa did not want to follow Jesus.
After leaving Paul, King Agrippa told Festus that Paul had not done anything to deserve death. He should have been set free. But because Paul had appealed to Caesar’s official court in Rome Festus had no choice but to send him there.
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Additional Visual Aids for this Story:
- Paul’s Trial Slide Show_Slideshow to download
(.pptx 7.8 MB file size)
- Paul’s Trial_Visual Aid to download
(.pdf 1.9 MB file size)
- What was the name of the city where Paul spent three years appearing before governors (Festus and Felix and King Agrippa) and waiting for a trial? Caesarea
- Did the governors that Paul spoke to become Christians? No
- Who should tell people about Jesus? Me!
- Oh, How I Love Jesus
- Love is Something, If You Give It Away
- I Can Be a Missionary
- This Little Light of Mine
- Roll the Gospel Chariot Along
- Love is Something if You Give it Away
- J-E-S-U-S Cheer Song
- Choose songs from a church hymnal with a theme of telling people about Jesus.
- Refer to the Song Page on this website for more options.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Discuss ways to tell people about Jesus (Be sure and stress verbal ways today. We will discuss written methods–correspondence courses etc. in the lesson Paul Writes Letters from Prison).
- Make a list of things about Jesus that we know and can share (Jesus healed a blind man, Jesus died on a cross, Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus loves us, etc.)
- Invite someone to class who can share with the class ways they have talked about Jesus with others.
- Make a relief map of Paul’s Journies featuring the place in today’s story. If you are studying about Paul’s journies over a few lessons then you could add more details to the map each time you learn about another stop on the journey. Refer to Overview of the Book of Acts. Instructions on how to make a relief map at http://www.squidoo.com/salt-dough-maps
- If you are teaching a series of lessons about Paul then you might draw an outline of him on a large poster or paper and then add descriptive words about him each time you study a new lesson (printable picture here). Alternatively, you might draw a new outline shape of him each week on a whiteboard or even with a stick in the sand (if you are outside) and guide children in adding descriptive words or events inside the outlined shape as a review. Lessons from the life of Paul are:
- Saul (Paul) Becomes a Christian
- The Antioch Church
- Paul’s 1st Journey- Lystra
- Paul’s 2nd Journey-Macedonian Vision
- Lydia Becomes a Christian
- A Jailer Becomes a Christian
- The Noble Bereans
- Paul Preaches in Athens-Mars Hill
- Priscilla and Aquila
- Paul’s 3rd Journey- Ephesus
- Eutychus Falls from a Window
- Paul Goes to Jerusalem
- Paul’s Nephew Uncovers a Plot
- Paul’s Trial
- Paul’s Shipwreck
- Paul Writes Letters from Prison
Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page and puzzle worksheets- Paul sent before Felix (Calvary Curriculum)
- Colouring page and puzzle worksheets- appearance before Agrippa (Calvary Curriculum)
- A good selection of puzzles and games (gardenofpraise.com)
- Craft: Doorknob hanger (sundayschoolcrafts.net)
- Review: Create a “passport” that covers the life of Paul. Good visual ideas and activities. Could be split up to go with several lessons or taught all together as a review of previous lessons concerning Paul (kidsbibledebjackson.blogspot.co.nz)