My thoughts (Tyler Connoley):
As I read this passage, I can’t help wondering if Paul made the right decision by petitioning to the Emperor and choosing to be taken to Rome.
At first glance, it looks like Paul chose well, and that seems to be the perspective of the author of Acts. The author tells us the Jews appealed to Festus “and requested, as a favor to them against Paul, to have him transferred to Jerusalem. They were, in fact, planning an ambush to kill him along the way.” By demanding to be taken to Rome, Paul escaped the ambush that was being planned for him. Without the decision to go to Rome, Paul probably would have been killed on the way to Jerusalem. Since he wrote many of the letters that ended up in the New Testament from his prison in Rome, his decision to save his own life is directly related to the shape of the Bible we have today.
On the other hand, King Agrippa thinks Paul made the wrong decision. In Chapter 26, he says, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor.” If we agree with King Agrippa, then that means Paul was never in danger of actually being transferred to Jerusalem. If he’d just kept his mouth shut, he would have been freed and could have gone on his way. The Jews in Jerusalem would certainly have continued to try to kill him, but he wouldn’t have been ambushed this time, and he very well could have lived another forty years and written many more letters. Imagine how much richer our Scriptural heritage could have been if Paul had been able to write four or five more books for the New Testament.
I’m sure that in the following years, as Paul sat in prison in Rome and eventually went to his execution, he had plenty of time to second-guess this decision. But, the fact is, there is no way to ever know for sure what the right decision was in this situation. Both decisions seem equally right. And both seem equally wrong. Only one path could be chosen, and what happened is what happened. End of story.
All of us have had experiences where we had to make hard decisions in which no answer seemed definitely right or definitely wrong. After the fact, it’s easy for us to continually rehash those events in our mind, bringing up those old arguments, trying to second guess ourselves. We can make ourselves crazy reliving events in our minds. In those situations, I think it’s good to remember some of the words Paul wrote while in prison in Rome:
“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Thought for the day: Are you still second-guessing an old decision? Ask God to help you trust that you are exactly where God wants you to be, so you can focus on what is good in the here and now.
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.