Acts 23:12-35 … You’ve heard of the midnight ride of Paul Revere? Well, this is the midnight ride of Paul the Apostle. It begins with a diabolical conspiracy, which even involved the ruling Sanhedrin Council! The ride itself is filled with far more intrigue and excitement than Paul Revere’s unopposed ride. As a matter of fact, you can see the providence of God working through these events.
The story is self- explanatory, but a few historical notes will fill in some background. This is 57 or 58 A.D. The events begin in Jerusalem, where a garrison of soldiers was under the authority of a local Roman commander. The regional Governor had his palace over on the coast in Caesarea (not Caesarea Philippi, which is in the north of Israel, but a larger coastal town on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea). Who is the Governor and what’s his function? Recall the four sons of Herod the Great, each of whom received a fourth of the kingdom of Israel (a tetrarch). The tetrarch of Judea was Herod Archelaus (you saw him briefly in Matthew 2:22); he was truly a madman and tyrant and the cause of substantial civil unrest in Judea. After 6 years, the Romans, whose modus operandi for their territories was peace and tranquility, removed Archelaus and sent him into exile. They replaced him as tetrarch with a politician on assignment from Rome. So the “Governor” is that individual. And that’s the role Pontius Pilate had when Jesus was crucified. Only three of these successive Governors are known by name: Pontius Pilate, Felix (mentioned here in Acts 18:24) and Festus, who replaced Felix in about 60 A.D. The meaning of verse 34, “when he learned that he was from Cilicia” is this: it identifies Paul as a Roman citizen (in addition to being a Jew) and thus imparts to Paul the privilege of a trial, and even the right to appeal to Caesar for a hearing. Romans had the right of trial before punishment. The conquered Israelites (and other conquered peoples) were typically punished without a trial.