The Gospel stirred up opposition on this occasion. Paul did not even get to finish, though he seems to have been near the end of his address. Festus, who had been listening all this time, interrupted, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane” (v. 24). He had never heard anything as crazy as the Christian Gospel in his life.
Festus might have been willing to hear Paul talk about some far-off, future resurrection, particularly if it could be thought of metaphorically. Most people are at least willing to consider the possibility of some future state in which we will all possibly have to answer for our misdeeds. But that was not what Paul was talking about. He was talking about a literal, bodily resurrection that had happened in history and that had made all the difference in his life and in the lives of others who had met Jesus Christ. It was that which was incredible and intolerable to Festus. “You must be crazy,” he said. This was Festus’ response. He perished because of it.
Agrippa would have known something of these events, too. Yes, but Agrippa still had his position in life to think about, and he perished because of that.
Festus probably perished through the pride of intellect. How could a Roman governor believe anything as crazy as a literal resurrection? That was not the case with Agrippa. Agrippa probably believed in the resurrection. But he had his position, and he just could not humble himself—acknowledging himself to be a sinner, like anybody else—and receive Jesus Christ as his Savior. He was put on the spot, embarrassed, no doubt, before the governor. So he dodged the question, saying “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
The point is that this is precisely what men and women do today. When the supernatural Gospel of a crucified but risen Savior is proclaimed, a Gospel that demands that we turn from sin and begin to show our conversion by good works, the world puts up barriers and rejects it for precisely these reasons: 1) pride of intellect (“I couldn’t possibly believe anything like that”—even though the resurrection is not at all incredible, as Paul maintained); and 2) pride of position (“If I believed on Jesus, I would have to abandon everything I have achieved and become like these poor Christians). If you are not a Christian, isn’t it true that when you look into your heart you find that those are the things that keep you from bowing to Jesus Christ: pride of intellect and pride of position? But think how foolish that is, since both will eventually pass away.
What does the Bible say? John wrote, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). Everybody wants to live forever. But the key to it is not earthly position or fame, but the Gospel. Jesus said that the way to live forever is by joining yourself to Him. He is the eternal one. He died for you so that you might have eternal life. What you must do is turn from your sin, believe on Him, that is, trust yourself to Him, and thus enter into a life which is not only good now—though there may be suffering connected with it—but a life which is going to be infinitely blessed beyond the grave.
Jesus put it strongly when He said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26).