When the Jewish officials arrived in Caesarea, they presented a vague and flimsy case to Felix; there really isn’t any other way to describe it (24:1-9). If the Jews had known about the letter Felix had already received from the Jerusalem commander, I doubt they would have taken to approach they did, for as the case was presented to Felix, it was all about a Roman citizen who had been assaulted by a mob of provincials. Paul then made a very simple and clear defense (24:10-21) which was more or less in accord with the note Felix had received from the Jerusalem garrison. We have arrived at the place where Felix should probably have dismissed the charges, but Felix knew he was in a tough political spot and adjourned for the day, saying he would render his decision when the commander of the garrison arrived on the scene. Apparently, he wanted to examine the differences between the Jewish and Pauline accounts of events. The funny thing is… Luke makes no mention of there ever having been such a meeting.
The political problem for Felix is simple: Paul hasn’t broken any laws and is popular with one set of people in the city. The Jewish leaders are obviously not being truthful, but they are the leaders of the majority of the people in the region, and people who are famous for being fiercely independent and almost impossible to deal with honestly. If Felix does the right thing, he will likely have an insurrection on his hands. If he condemns Paul, he will possibly have violence and discord in the streets, and his career would be in danger either way. Thus, as any up and coming politician would do, he stalls for time.
He stalled by having a series of meetings with Paul over a two year period; Luke makes his thinking clear:
At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. (24:26)
There’s nothing like a little cash to break a political stalemate.
Paul did not offer any bribes, and eventually, Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus; no doubt his new posting would be less difficult.
When Festus took office, he seems to have gone to Jerusalem and discussed matters with the Jewish leaders, including the thorny question of what to do about the Paul case. Naturally, the Jews wanted a change of venue for the trial (which had already taken place) so they could set an ambush, but Festus wasn’t quite that gullible, and they would need to go to Caesarea.
In yet another hearing, the Jews brought their charges which were firmly denied by Paul. Hoping to gain favor with the Jews, Festus asked Paul if he would agree to a change of venue, and Paul opted to change the venue not to Jerusalem, but to Rome. Festus, having little choice in the matter at that point, granted the motion. Of course, Festus had no way of knowing that he was really nothing more than a pawn on God’s chess board, for it was His expressed will that Paul take the Gospel to Rome (23:11); Paul would travel there at Rome’s expense.
Yet, there was another interesting scene still to be played out in Caesarea…