And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul…
I. THE MOTIVE BY WHICH IT IS ACTUATED. Festus was willing to do the Jews a pleasure that he might stand the higher in their esteem. This was necessary to his personal comfort, for he knew the race that he had to govern. This was desirable for the ultimate ends he had in view — successful administration; royal favour. It is remarkable that with the examples of Pilate and Festus before him he should hope to succeed.
1. This motive is a base one. Ambition to please the good and to improve the bad is laudable; but ambition to please the basest is self-degradation.
2. This motive seldom succeeds. Witness Pilate and Festus.
II. THE SACRIFICES IT ENTAILS. Festus proposed to undertake the toilsome journey to Jerusalem. But to what inconveniences is a popularity hunter obliged to subject himself. He must go where those whom he desires please, and do what they would have him do. Hence the toilsome days and sleepless nights of the popular preacher or politician. He who would really serve his race is not exempt from sacrifice; but he has compensations which the mere popularity seeker wets not of.
III. THE DEGRADATION TO WHICH IT STOOPS. Here is a Roman judge armed with all the authority that Caesar could confer, willing to surrender that authority and to bow to that which was already discredited. And the man who would be popular has often to descend from the highest ground to the lowest, from a sense of justice, honour, and the fitness of things to pander to the base inclinations or passions of the mob.
IV. THE ACCIDENTS TO WHICH IT IS LIABLE. Suppose Paul had been tried at Jerusalem. Had the case gone against him he would certainly have appealed, and Festus would have had to endorse the appeal. In that event his popularity would have indeed been brief. And what a little thing has often sufficed to dash a popular idol to the ground! Both preachers and statesmen know this.
V. THE FRUSTRATION TO WHICH IT IS DOOMED. Suppose Festus had succeeded, how long would he have enjoyed his popularity? In two short years he was where the objects of the idolatry and the execration of the mob alike lie together. Sic transit gloria mundi. Conclusion: The best course is to do the right and thus seek God's pleasure, whether man is pleased or not.
(J. W. Burn.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.