Friday, March 15

Unhindered

27:1 When it was decided that we were to sail to Italy, they handed over Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of the Imperial Regiment. When we had boarded a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, intending to sail to ports along the coast of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us. The next day we put in at Sidon, and Julius treated Paul kindly and allowed him to go to his friends to receive their care. When we had put out to sea from there, we sailed along the northern coast of Cyprus because the winds were against us. After sailing through the open sea off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we reached Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. Sailing slowly for many days, with difficulty we arrived off Cnidus. Since the wind did not allow us to approach it, we sailed along the south side of Crete off Salmone. With still more difficulty we sailed along the coast and came to a place called Fair Havens near the city of Lasea.

By now much time had passed, and the voyage was already dangerous. Since the Day of Atonement was already over, Paul gave his advice 10 and told them, “Men, I can see that this voyage is headed toward disaster and heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid attention to the captain and the owner of the ship rather than to what Paul said. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided to set sail from there, hoping somehow to reach Phoenix, a harbor on Crete facing the southwest and northwest, and to winter there.

13 When a gentle south wind sprang up, they thought they had achieved their purpose. They weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 But before long, a fierce wind called the “northeaster” rushed down from the island. 15 Since the ship was caught and unable to head into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 After running under the shelter of a little island called Cauda, we were barely able to get control of the skiff. 17 After hoisting it up, they used ropes and tackle and girded the ship. Fearing they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the drift-anchor, and in this way they were driven along. 18 Because we were being severely battered by the storm, they began to jettison the cargo the next day. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 For many days neither sun nor stars appeared, and the severe storm kept raging. Finally all hope was fading that we would be saved.

21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, “You men should have followed my advice not to sail from Crete and sustain this damage and loss. 22 Now I urge you to take courage, because there will be no loss of any of your lives, but only of the ship. 23 For last night an angel of the God I belong to and serve stood by me 24 and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. It is necessary for you to appear before Caesar. And indeed, God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you.’ 25 So take courage, men, because I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me. 26 But we have to run aground on some island.”

27 When the fourteenth night came, we were drifting in the Adriatic Sea, and about midnight the sailors thought they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found it to be a hundred and twenty feet deep; when they had sailed a little farther and sounded again, they found it to be ninety feet deep. 29 Then, fearing we might run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight to come. 30 Some sailors tried to escape from the ship; they had let down the skiff into the sea, pretending that they were going to put out anchors from the bow. 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut the ropes holding the skiff and let it drop away.

33 When it was about daylight, Paul urged them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been waiting and going without food, having eaten nothing. 34 So I urge you to take some food. For this is for your survival, since none of you will lose a hair from your head.” 35 After he said these things and had taken some bread, he gave thanks to God in the presence of all of them, and after he broke it, he began to eat. 36 They all were encouraged and took food themselves. 37 In all there were 276 of us on the ship. 38 When they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing the grain overboard into the sea.

39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land but sighted a bay with a beach. They planned to run the ship ashore if they could. 40 After cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and headed for the beach. 41 But they struck a sandbar and ran the ship aground. The bow jammed fast and remained immovable, while the stern began to break up by the pounding of the waves. 42 The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners so that no one could swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion kept them from carrying out their plan because he wanted to save Paul, and so he ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to follow, some on planks and some on debris from the ship. In this way, everyone safely reached the shore.

28:1 Once safely ashore, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The local people showed us extraordinary kindness. They lit a fire and took us all in, since it was raining and cold. As Paul gathered a bundle of brushwood and put it on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the local people saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “This man, no doubt, is a murderer. Even though he has escaped the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” But he shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no harm. They expected that he would begin to swell up or suddenly drop dead. After they waited a long time and saw nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

Now in the area around that place was an estate belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us hospitably for three days. Publius’s father was in bed suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went to him, and praying and laying his hands on him, he healed him. After this, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed. 10 So they heaped many honors on us, and when we sailed, they gave us what we needed.

11 After three months we set sail in an Alexandrian ship that had wintered at the island, with the Twin Gods as its figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed three days. 13 From there, after making a circuit along the coast, we reached Rhegium. After one day a south wind sprang up, and the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers and sisters and were invited to stay a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 Now the brothers and sisters from there had heard the news about us and had come to meet us as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. 16 When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself with the soldier who guarded him.

17 After three days he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had gathered he said to them: “Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 After they examined me, they wanted to release me, since there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 Because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar; even though I had no charge to bring against my people. 20 For this reason I’ve asked to see you and speak to you. In fact, it is for the hope of Israel that I’m wearing this chain.”

21 Then they said to him, “We haven’t received any letters about you from Judea. None of the brothers has come and reported or spoken anything evil about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, since we know that people everywhere are speaking against this sect.”

23 After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and testified about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them about Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. 24 Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe.

25 Disagreeing among themselves, they began to leave after Paul made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah 26 when he said,

Go to these people and say:
You will always be listening,
but never understanding;
and you will always be looking,
but never perceiving.
27 For the hearts of these people
have grown callous,
their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
otherwise they might see with their eyes
and hear with their ears,
understand with their heart
and turn,
and I would heal them. 


28 Therefore, let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” 

30 Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Act 27-28 (CSB)

Really, God? Really?! This is not how Paul’s story should be ending. Less drama. More resolution.

Hadn’t there been enough dramatic delays? Paul was a prisoner for over two years, bounced back and forth and threatened by assassination, yet all the while he clung to the comfort of Your firm promise that this was the way to Rome. So off he goes to Rome, except….wait….first 2 weeks lost at sea and a 3 month shipwreck…plus a viper bite. Geesh.

Through the literal storm, though, Paul held firmly to God’s promise: ‘It is necessary for you to appear before Caesar. And indeed, God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you.’ So Paul took courage from his belief that it will be just the way it was told to me.

Could God have spared Paul the storm? Absolutely. But he sent it so the other 275 people on board might experience His power and promises. He shipwrecked Paul and spared him from fatal snake bite so that he could heal Publius’s father and other residents of that shipwreck island. The dramatic events Luke packs into the last chapters of his tale were not accidents, impediments, or delays—they were as much the work as Paul’s eventual ministry in Rome. 

And, eventually, finally, Luke writes, and so we came to Rome.

He could have put a little bit more excitement behind that statement. Whew! Finally!

After the tremendous buildup leading to this point, though, didn’t you expect a bit more excitement in Rome? Or at least more details? All Luke includes is a brief outreach to the local Jews, and then concludes the entire book with this statement:

Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Two more years as a prisoner. It was house arrest, so the conditions weren’t awful, but this is not the ending we expect. As always, though, God shatters our expectations. Those two years were some of Paul’s most fruitful ministry years. Many scholars believe he wrote the ‘prison letters’ (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians) during this period, and Luke recounts that Paul had a steady stream of visitors, all who left having heard the Gospel. 

Still, the ending is abrupt. Someone should tell Luke this is not how one ends a story. It’s not even the end of Paul’s story; Paul is eventually released from this imprisonment and continues ministry until a second arrest and execution in Rome, and from 2 Timothy we know that Luke was still with him then. Even though Luke wrote Acts before those events transpired, he might have wrapped up the story arc a bit better. However, his abrupt, ending-less ending serves a profound theological point:

This is not the end.

Acts is not the story of Paul or even of the early church’s beginnings. It is the story of the Church. It is the story of the Spirit’s work in and through Christ’s followers. It is the story of the Gospel spreading from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The Roman Empire was the center of the Western world in the first century, and if all road lead to Rome, then all roads go out from Rome. Centered in the center of the world, the Word went out to the ends of the earth, carried by faithful believers whose names we will not know until glory.

And the story is still not over. The Church’s story is our story. My story. Your story. Arrowhead’s story. The One, Holy, Universal Church’s story. We are the ones who now pick up the Gospel and carry it with us wherever our roads lead us. We are the ones who make disciples and build the Kingdom until the King returns.

While confined by house arrest, unable to visit the churches he planted or travel to Spain as he wanted or even worship with other believers a block away, Luke makes the paradoxical statement that Paul preached the Gospel without hindrance

What more fitting conclusion to the greatest story Luke would ever tell: Herod couldn’t kill Him. The Jews couldn’t silence Him. Pilate couldn’t keep Him dead. The Temple couldn’t contain His Spirit. Chains can’t hinder His message.

So go. Filled with the Spirit—the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and healed the sick and turned fishermen into unstoppable evangelists. Go. Live. Use your Spirit-given gifts in service to the Church and for the Kingdom and for those He came to save. 

Go. Live. Proclaim the Kingdom and teach the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness.

Unhindered.

Pick Four More Activities

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  • Listen and Worship.

  • Pray a Psalm.

  • Read a Book.

  • Retell the Gospel to Yourself.

  • Take Some Notes on Today's Devotional.

  • Pray for Yourself, Your Family, Your Church, and the Lost.

  • Memorize a Verse.

  • List Five Things You're Thankful For.

  • Encourage Someb

Megan NessonComment