Acts 27. 1-44, and 8. 1-10
The Story: Shipwrecked!
Paul didn’t even need to be going on that ship to Rome. He was innocent; he had been framed for something he didn’t do. While he was waiting to stand trial, people had tried to murder him. When he did stand trial, the judge knew he was innocent but sent him to Rome to be tried by the Emperor. And Paul was quite happy: although a prisoner, he was getting a free boat-ride to the capital of the empire: where he had always wanted to go!
But they had left it a bit too late for travelling. It was getting stormy as it did every autumn. Sea travel was usually done by staying as close to he shore as possible, so there were frequent stops at island ports and bays. (Chapter 27. 1-10
Paul warned the centurion in charge about going on: he thought there would be “great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the soldier in charge and the owner of the ship ignored this because there was good wind in the right direction. (v 9-12)
They set sail.. and sure enough, they got caught in a terrible storm at sea. The sailors lashed ropes around the ship to keep it from breaking apart. That seems scary to us but it was common practise. Ships had hooks attached for exactly that purpose. Then they threw the cargo overboard. Then the ship’s tackle. (v 13-20)
The storms lasted for days and days. Wind, clouds, rain, huge waves. What was Paul doing while all this was happening? He was still excited about going to Rome. I guess he prayed (for the soldiers and sailors) as often as he could. And one day, God answered, and sent an angel to tell him “Don’t worry: you’re going to get to Rome and stand in front of the Emperor!” How would you respond to that? “Wow! That’s amazing. Thank you God!” I guess Paul could have kept as dry as he could, hidden away in a corner of he boat thanking God and praying. But that’s not what he did. He went and shared his encouraging message with the officer and the captain of the ship. (v21-26.)
Eventually the sailors realised they were getting near land. Some of them tried to escape in the ship’s lifeboat: Paul realised what was happening and warned the Officer that without these sailors to help operate the ship, they could all risk dying. (v 27-32)
As they got near to land, Paul encouraged everyone to have some food. Paul did something Jesus did – broke bread and shared it with everyone… They had been working hard and eating nothing much for a fortnight, and needed something to give them strength. Who else had broken bread and given it to his friends? As they were getting near to the beach the boat got stuck on a sandbar and was broken to pieces by the waves. (v. 33-44)
But everyone managed to get to land. They found they were on the island of Malta. So Paul, the other prisoners, the sailors, the Officer, and the soldiers all ended up on the beach, soaking wet, cold and frightened. What did they need? To get warm, to get dry. The locals looked after them, lit a fire to warm them up. Paul ended up gathering firewood, having a snake fasten onto his hand, but being unharmed. (Chapter 28. 1-7)
As it was winter, they needed to stay on the Island. Paul was welcomed into the home of and official called Publius. When Paul found out that Publius’ father was ill, he laid his hands on him and healed him – then healed lots of other people too. (v. 7-10
Luke gives us lots of detail about this journey: he wants us to notice how Paul responded to this challenge. We need to learn from how Paul was on this journey, because he made a real effort to bless those he was on the ship with. There are a number of lessons for us
- Be there.
Paul was present. It was a frightening, unpleasant, dangerous situation, and one he didn’t deserve to be in. But he was there and he fully engaged with the people around him. I think he contrasts strongly with Jonah who struggled to engage with the missional heart of God, and tried his best to hide away from God, from the people he was sent to, and indeed from everybody else! Paul was there. He was constantly engaging with the situation. He was not shielded from the physical difficulties that others round about him felt. Cold, hunger, noise, lack of sleep. This ship as his world, and he was able to be there, for Jesus.
- Be ready to share what you have – whatever it is.
What did Paul have to share with others on the ship? Not a lot. Probably the clothes he stood up in. But he had gifts. Paul moved In the power of the Spirit. He had wisdom and insight. And he had two hands and two feet. When he had that encouraging visit from an angel, instead of enjoying his encouragement from God as though it was only for him, he shared it with everyone in the ship. What do we have to share? Whether it is practical things, or spiritual gifts, we can share them.
- Be concerned
Paulhad a genuine sense of compassion for the people on the ship, and a genuine desire for their well-being. He wants to encourage them. He knows that after a fortnight of eating very little, the men may not have the strength to swim to shore, so he tells them to eat something. it’s almost like he is more concerned for the ship’s company, and more in charge, than the Roman officer and the ship’s captain.
- Be like Jesus.
There’s a deliberate reminder about Jesus, even in the middle of the storm, as Paul shares bread with the people on the ship. And healing Publius’ father, followed by having loads of people turn up for healing, was just like for Jesus, too. What would Jesus do? it’s an important question. Being like Jesus may seem impossible. We’re only human, and Jesus was and is unique. But he has given us the Holy Spirit, his Spirit, to enable us to show his character and do his work.
- Be practical.
Paul was prepared to do ordinary tasks like picking up firewood. He thought of practical things like what would happen if the sailors abandoned the ship. We need to be prepared to get our hands dirty and do the practical tasks that will bless people around us.
- Be responsive to real needs.
Paul tackled the problems of the community.Fever and Dysentery was probably a disease called Brucellosis, which was so common in Malta that is became known as Malta Fever. As he had done all the way through this amazing adventure, Paul was helping with the real problems of real people in the real community. What are the real needs in our community, in your neighbourhood, your family? We can’t sort everything out, but we can seek to respond positively to some of the needs in or own community.
© Gilmour Lilly May 2019