1 Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2 And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, 3 asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. 4 Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. 5 “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.” 6 After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. 7 When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. 8 Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”
When he visits Jerusalem the chief priests and leading influential leaders of Jerusalem immediately ask for Paul to be brought to Jerusalem. Again, there is another ambush prepared to kill Paul. However, Festus apparently has been debriefed on this matter because he plainly tells them no, that if they want to pursue the matter they can do so in Caesarea.
8 - 10 days later Festus returns to Caesarea and opens a new trial on behalf of Paul. That's right, after 2 years of imprisonment we're back to square one. Luke, however, does not give us the details of their accusations or of Pauls defense. Mostly likely, nothing has changed since the last trial.
How would you feel if all your hard work and patience was just erased one day, discovering that you had to start it all over again? Remember that the Holy Spirit led him to Jerusalem and told him, well in advance that he was going to be bound up and carried away. Paul knows that everything is happening in the will of God and he also knows that it will come at great personal cost to him.
9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” 10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”
Festus asks Paul if he is willing to go to Jerusalem and be tried there. Paul knows what will happen if he does that. I am sure that there are those in Jerusalem who have been keeping him up to date on all that has been happening, including assassination plans against him.
Paul has one recourse and he makes it request simple. Every Roman citizen had the right to appeal their case directly to Caesar. Paul knows and states that he should be tried there. Paul also knows that the political atmosphere is never going to let that happen. These Jews are not going to give up - ever. Paul recognizes the authority of this tribunal but states that if he has done nothing to deserve death - he shouldn't be allowed to die.
Festus confers and happily sends Paul directly to Caesar. He was probably glad to get rid of this problem. However, if you haven't caught on yet, notice this. Paul is going to Rome. His life long dream is being fulfilled.
13 Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus. 14 And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix, 15 and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16 I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. 17 So when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. 19 Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20 Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. 21 But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.” 22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.”
Here is some history.
Agrippa was the son of Herod that you read about in Acts 12. Bernice is his widowed sister. Agrippa rules over an area to the north of Caesarea. Later he becomes the ruler over an area east of the Sea of Galilee and north of Damascus.
English Standard Version (ESV)