Encouraged by a gentle southern breeze, the ship’s pilot sets sail for Phoenix, only to encounter hurricane force winds which batter the ship and send it off course toward the island of Malta.
Once again, our “hero,” Paul, comes to the rescue. He first tells everyone, “If you had listened to me…” (A real “I told you so” moment), but then offers hope, recounting a dream in which God told him the ship would run aground and be lost, but the passengers would all survive.
After 2 weeks at sea, some of the sailors make an excuse and abandon ship. Paul tells the centurion that only those staying on the ship will survive and encourages everyone to eat and build up their strength for the rest of the storm. Then Paul takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and eats (Acts 27:35). Certainly this is a sign of trust in the Lord and a reminder of the Last Supper!
Heartened by Paul’s word and actions, everyone eats. Once fed, they dump the wheat to lighten their load. At daybreak, they cast off the remaining extra weight and, raising the sail, aim for what appears to be a beach in the distance. Hitting a sandbar, the ship is unable to move and begins to break apart.
The soldiers plan to kill the prisoners so none will escape. The centurion however, wanting to save Paul, stops the plan and instead orders anyone who can swim to jump overboard and make their way to the beach.
The others are to hang on to planks or other debris from the ship and float their way to the shore. In the end, everyone reaches land safely.
Once on the beach, they are welcomed by hospitable natives and told they have reached the island of Malta.
As Paul places wood on a fire, a viper bites his hand. The natives think this means Paul is a murderer who the Greek goddess “Justice” will kill through the venomous bite. When Paul doesn’t die, they think him a god. His reputation increases when he cures the father of Publius, and other ill people.
After 3 months, Paul and his companions are able to board a ship which wintered at Malta. Grateful for all he has done, the islanders provide Paul and his sailing companions with provisions for the rest of his voyage.
The ship sails to Syracuse, then to Rhegium and on to Puteoli where they disembark and remain with “some brothers” (Christians) for a week before continuing on to Rome.
This stay with Christians certainly indicates that Paul and the centurion have become trusted friends and signals the presence of Christianity in Italy. From Puteoli, 125 miles southeast of Rome, the journey continues on foot.
Word of Paul’s arrival precedes him and Christians from Rome come out to meet him at the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns.
This “parade” which seems to join Paul along the Appian Way (one of the paved roads leading into Rome) gives the feel of a “triumphant victor” rather than “Roman prisoner” coming to the great city.
One simple verse (28:16) tells us Paul has arrived in Rome, and that he is able to live by himself with the soldier/guard that has accompanied him (probably all the way from Caesarea).
This “house arrest” gives Paul the opportunity to gather the Jewish leaders and find out if charges against him have arrived from Jerusalem.
The Jews in Rome tell Paul they have heard of no charges against him, but they would very much like to hear his views about this “Christian sect.” Paul speaks at length to the Jews who come to hear him. As usual there are those who accept and those who reject his preaching.
Acts concludes with Paul under house arrest, receiving guests and for 2 full years “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Upon Reflection …
• When 2 weeks of storm causes some sailors to abandon ship, Paul encourages those on board remain with the boat and even to eat. Why do you think Luke includes this “meal/Eucharist” at a time when it appears the ship is going to be destroyed? How would you react to being offered to “pray and eat” if your “boat” (Life) was coming to an end?
• Paul’s stay on Malta has him curing many and doing the work of Jesus even though he is a prisoner in chains. Is there a lesson in this for us today?
• The journey from Puteoli to Rome is 125 miles, yet Christians come to greet and welcome Paul all along the way. What assumptions can we make as a result of this information? What lessons can we take away?
• For several chapters (22-27) a dominant theme was getting to Rome and appearing before Caesar. Beginning in 28:16, we are suddenly in Rome and living in a house for two full years, “receiving all who come to him and teaching with complete assurance and without hindrance”. Certainly Luke knew of Paul’s martyrdom, yet says nothing of it in Acts. What might have been Luke’s purpose in ending Acts so abruptly with Paul having success in proclaiming the Word of God?
For Closer Study …
It is believed that both Paul and Peter were martyred during the persecutions of Emperor Nero. Nero was known for insane cruelty and inhuman treatment of the Christians. What do you know of this Roman emperor? What can you find about the manner of his persecutions? Who were some of the other martyrs of this time?