Read Acts 25-26
It is easy to look at our reading and wonder what might have been. It is easy to say that if only Paul had not entered his appeal and had waited a little longer, then Festus and Agrippa would have released him, and he could have proclaimed the Gospel freely, and not have had to endure going to Rome as a prisoner, and the shipwreck and near death experiences that would go along with it.
It is easy to say that if only Festus and Agrippa had been in power earlier, they would have known that Paul was innocent, that the charges the Jews presented were false, and that there was no need for Paul to be in prison any longer.
But it is important to note that the events of our reading could not have happened 25 years earlier, when Jesus stands before Pilate; nor could it have happened 15 years earlier when James is killed by Herod.
The Christian Church has come a long way, thanks in no small part to those like James and Peter and Paul who have endured persecution and suffering for the sake of the Gospel.
Because of their proclamation, the Gospel message has spread, and it has infiltrated the ranks of the political authorities.
When Jesus is before Pilate, it is a minor disturbance among the Jews; when Herod puts James to death, it has grown enough for Herod to take the effort to try to kill it off. But by the time Paul stands before Festus and Agrippa, the Christian faith is a worldwide movement that demands everyone to take notice, so that even those who do not believe are at least familiar with the basics of the faith.
Festus and Agrippa are perhaps the first political rulers to notice that the beliefs of Christianity are not advocating the overthrow of the government, instead, it advocates Christians being good citizens, respecting the authorities and remaining faithful to the Word.
It is easy to feel sorry for Paul that only after he appeals his case to Caesar that the people who could release him admit that they would do just that if he had not appealed to Caesar, but there is nothing here to feel sorry about. Paul did what he wanted to do: he preached the Gospel in the presence of numerous officials who in the future, had a better understanding, and potentially even saving faith.
Faithful leaders, who cling to the Word of the Lord and faith in Christ, are leaders that we should seek after every chance we get. When one is faithful to Christ, it will influence their governance for the better.
If is easy to wonder what might have happened if Festus and Agrippa had arrived sooner; but what they show us is a glimpse of what we see today: the Christian faith infiltrating the highest positions of leadership. And when the leader at the top is a believer, good things will follow.