As Paul was saying these things in his defense, Festus exclaimed loudly, “You have lost your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane!” [Yeah, I’ve heard that one before, as well] But Paul replied, “I have not lost my mind, most excellent Festus, but am speaking true and rational words. For the king knows about these things, and I am speaking freely to him, because I cannot believe that any of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. Do you believe the prophets, King Agrippa? I know that you believe.” Agrippa said to Paul, “In such a short time are you persuading me to become a Christian?” Paul replied, “I pray to God that whether in a short or a long time not only you but also all those who are listening to me today could become such as I am, except for these chains” —Acts 26:24-29
I believe Festus was trying to solve his problem (his ignorance in understanding the accusations against Paul) in a way that made him look as good as possible. So, he paints a better picture of his dealings with Paul than is true. He also makes this a gala event, with Paul served up as the entertainment. Paul was the one who was supposed to come out looking bad. At least Paul could have been more intimidated by this gathering of dignitaries. Instead, Paul seems to be getting more and more fired up, and more zealous in his efforts to evangelize this group. Paul saw a group of sinners who desperately needed Salvation, so he preached the gospel to them. It was getting to be too much, and Festus has had enough of it.
So Festus interrupts Paul, loudly exclaiming, “You have lost your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane!” (Isn’t it interesting that Festus seems obliged to acknowledge Paul’s excellent scholarship when it comes to understanding the Old Testament). But this rude interruption doesn’t slow Paul up for a minute. Paul insists that he has not lost his mind; he is speaking true and rational words. His preaching is not the ravings of a mad man. Having silenced Festus, Paul once again turns his attention to Agrippa. He is certain that Agrippa is very well aware of the reports of Jesus’ earthly ministry, rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection. These things did not happen in some dark corner, but rather out in the open. So Paul presses Agrippa for some level of commitment: “Do you believe the prophets, King Agrippa? I know that you believe.”
Agrippa considered himself a Jew. He knew the Old Testament Scriptures. He knew what the prophets foretold concerning Messiah. Did he believe the prophets? Could he see that they spoke of Jesus?
Paul is not the one who is on the spot here; it is Agrippa. Whatever the king believes about Messiah, he is not willing to commit himself in front of his guests. So he answers evasively: “. . . In such a short time are you persuading me to become a Christian?”
It is hard to know whether Agrippa is injecting a little humor here or not. At the very least, Agrippa is giving Paul credit for working hard at getting him saved: “Paul, are you so quickly turning this into an evangelistic effort?” “Do you think you can convert me that quickly and easily?”
Paul makes no apologies for trying to persuade Agrippa to trust in Jesus. Paul replies that, whether it requires a short time or a more lengthy process, he is praying that Agrippa will come to faith, and not just Agrippa, but also those gathered with him on this occasion. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, Paul declares that he would love it if everyone who was present would be like him, minus the chains, of course. You would never expect this touch of humor from a lunatic or a fanatic. It may well have helped to put Agrippa and the rest at ease concerning the charges against Paul.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts