The Crux

"I answered them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man before the accused meets his accusers face to face has an opportunity to make his defense against the charges." Acts 25:16

Roman Exceptionalism was based on the rule of law, not the rule of the mob. The Roman Republic had been influenced by the Greek concept of government, but in its purest form it protected the rights of the individual from being hijacked by a lynch mob. In its more adulterated from, rights could be sold, and politicians could be bought. Sound familiar?

Governor Festus took great pains to point this out to King Agrippa. At the same time, he conveniently deleted any reference to former Governor Pontius Pilate. His caving before a rebellious crowd screaming for the blood of Jesus was an epic departure from the fabled Roman custom. It may not have been the custom of Romans to sacrifice the rights of their own citizens, but Jesus, the Jewish carpenter, didn't rate the same kind of protection.

Roman citizenship had saved Paul's life. Plucked from the grasp of the mob, by Roman soldiers, and imprisoned for two years, he would be given the opportunity to present his case before the new Roman Governor Festus and Agrippa, King of the Jewish people.

Governor Festus had been raised in a Roman culture, where the finer points of philosophy were subjugated by the bottom line of problem solving. Though drawing heavily from Greek culture for religion and government, the Romans were a very different people.

Roman dependency upon the law was their strong point. It enabled them to cut to the chase, and find a solution, or an answer to the problem while Greek philosophers were still posing the question. They were a no nonsense bunch. Though never high on sentimentality, they were obsessed with practicality.

Governor Festus was able to cut to the chase, and ignore what sounded to him like mere religious mumbo jumbo. He knew that Paul, as a Roman citizen, didn't deserve to be killed for what he believed. He just couldn't comprehend what the big deal was all about. Romans had gods, but even their priests didn't really believe in them. He was a politician, not a theologian, so he just got to the crux of the matter.

"But they simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive." Acts 25:19

Paul's assertion was The Crux of the matter. Where the Jews crossed paths and swords with Paul was at the point of the cross. Romans killed criminals with the cross. They didn't teach them a lesson, or torture them with this form of execution. They took life from those who broke Roman law, and did it in the most publicly humiliating way possible.

Festus had to laugh at the thought that someone would believe that a man left dead by Roman executioners could be believed to be alive. Still, what harm could come of it if he did? As obtuse as his Roman senses could be to the spiritual truth of the assertion, Festus had hit the nail on the head. What difference does it really make if a man believes a dead man is alive. Even the Romans wouldn't kill a man for it, yet. It just wasn't practical.

The Crux of the matter is that it makes a huge difference to believers who can sing with joy, "I Serve a Risen Savior." To them, Jesus is not a concept, a religion, an idea, a doctrine, or a dogma. Jesus is alive, and by His Spirit, He lives in those who believe in Him. Those who receive salvation by His grace and yield to His Lordship over their lives are God's children. Believers teach that no one comes to the Father except through The Son.

All this was all lost on the purely practical Roman politician. Still, with Roman intuition, if not spiritual insight, Festus identified it as the bone in the throat and a rock in the shoe to the Jews who sought to kill Paul. He just couldn't understand why. It just wasn't very Roman to choke on the insignificant. They had a tendency to just swallow up nations, and ideas, and use them to their own advantage.

“All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher.” Lucretius Roman poet, and philosopher

The Crux of the matter is the stumbling block for the unbelieving world. It is not that they have much of a problem with Jesus as a baby in the manger. The dirty little secret is that they are willing to leave Him there, and reject Jesus in their hearts, and as the Lord of their lives. They may say "Merry Christmas" but it carries about as much sincerity as the pious platitude, "Bless their heart." But I digress.

The rejection of Jesus as Lord is growing more intense, invasive and pervasive, with every passing year. The Crux of the matter, Jesus is alive, drives extreme secularists and theological terrorists to new levels of intolerance. Their mission is to drive the very assertion of the existence of Jesus from the face of the earth, beginning with the public square. Their message is nothing new. They are merely delivering a letter postmarked in hell.

Note to self: Return to sender.

"Merry Christmas" as a greeting or a benediction is holding on in contemporary culture, but not without a fight. Don't expect, The Crux of the matter to catch on anytime soon. If a baby in a manger is a stretch. The empty tomb is a deal breaker. Nothing drives an extreme secularist apoplectic like the greeting, "Jesus is alive!"

The live and let live mentality of Festus, the practical Roman politician, may have been cynical, and manipulative, but it left room for people to believe Jesus is alive. Those days are fast coming to a close unless the fresh wind of The Spirit ushers in the next Great Awakening. Pray for a breath of fresh air, and prepare for the wind to blow. Never forget. "Jesus is alive!" TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!

"Prayer is how we set our sails to catch the wind of Heaven." G. Campbell Morgan