by Roger McCay
3 January 2021
Sermon Passage: Acts 25:13-26:32
Link to Audio Version
The title of the sermon today, “Crazy Like Paul,” is, admittedly, a bit politically incorrect. However, using the word “insane” in the title, in the place of “crazy,” doesn’t really capture the flavor for which I was going. “Insane like Paul?”—Nah.
Concerning the word “insane,” the Oxford Dictionary defines “insane” as an adjective 1) “in or relating to an unsound state of mind; seriously mentally ill” or 2) “extremely foolish; and irrational.”
In our passage today Festus, in his disbelief, called Paul “out of his mind” (“insane”) when he heard his testimony concerning the gospel. And to Festus, who was blind and in darkness under the power of Satan (exactly like how the Lord himself had described the Gentiles who were not saved, in Paul’s testimony in 26:18) … to Festus, very much a Roman Gentile, Paul was indeed crazy. For Paul testified to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is about Jesus: a man born of a virgin; a God-man who was perfect, sinless; yet was crucified, executed on a cross as a criminal. It’s about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and his exaltation to the right hand of God the Father, as Lord over all. In order to be saved from our sins and damnation in hell, which we deserve due to our sins; to have fellowship with God Almighty, in repentance, we must trust in Jesus to save us. As disciples of Christ, we follow him as Lord, each of us gladly carrying our own cross in denial of self, even if this means suffering to the point of death, even if it means being despised by the world. Yet it also means rejoicing, despite such things, due to our hope in Christ.
From the world’s point of view the gospel is crazy – insane! And the world resists it. It’s a battle of kingdoms: The Kingdom of God vs. the Kingdom of this world. Both have their own ideas of reality. Both have their take on what is wisdom and what is power. One testifies to truth. One is deceived by a lie.
In our passage today we see these two kingdoms clash. We see Paul, the delegate from the Kingdom of God, stand before the representatives of the kingdom of the world (Festus, the governor of Judea, and King Agrippa II), and testify to the glorious truth of King Jesus. And it’s quite an affair.
Notice how, in Acts 25:23, Luke throws the word “pomp” into the description of King Agrippa and Bernice’s arrival and audience with Paul. Pomp is an interesting word to describe such an audience with a King. The word “pomp” is translated from the word φαντασία, the word from which we get our English word fantasy.
Imagine what this looked like: King Agrippa and Bernice (Agrippa’s sister with whom he supposedly had an incestuous relationship) … this pair with all their retinue including servants, military leaders, government officials, and such. Imagine all the colors (purple for the royalty and other colors throughout the scene); the ceremony; perhaps even music; also the displayed riches that go with worldly power; even the sense of importance, pride, and arrogance that would have permeated the room. And then picture the apostle Paul, in chains and humble clothing, having just been brought from his place of confinement.
From the worlds point of view the King and his dignitaries were the ones with the glory. But the reality was, as Kent Hughes has said, “the Apostle Paul, mighty in the Lord, towered above the king and governor and their petty dignitaries.” For in the humble apostle lay the Truth and the light. And the fantasy of the world has no substance whatsoever in its separation from that Truth—the Truth that is Jesus Christ. And the light of Christ reveals the fantasy.
Festus really didn’t know what to do with Paul. It was generally agreed that Paul had done nothing wrong (unless you were a Jew who wanted to kill Paul for his missionary work and testimony of Christ). Yet Paul had appealed to Caesar. So, in order to send him up to Caesar some reason must be given. Therefore Agrippa agreed to assist Festus, while he was in Caesarea visiting the new governor, and so hear Paul’s testimony.
Part of Paul’s testimony was Jesus’ commission upon Paul’s conversion. Ch. 26:15-18:
15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Thus, Paul, this Jewish Pharisee, testified that the crucified man (Jesus Christ) had arisen from the dead and appeared to him, commissioning him to go to the Gentiles and testify to the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that they might be saved.