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Acts 27-28    Listen Podcast

Paul sails for Rome (Acts 27:1-12)

1 And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment.
2 So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us.
3 And the next day we landed at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care.
4 When we had put to sea from there, we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.
5 And when we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.
6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board.
7 ¶ When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone.
8 Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.
9 ¶ Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them,
10 saying, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.”
11 Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul.
12 And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there.

Map of Paul's Trip to RomeYou will recall that Paul was arrested on his trip to Jerusalem in Acts 21 (see notes) while at the temple there. Actually, the temple police rescued him from an angry mob that wanted to execute him right there and then. Paul then appeared before the Sanhedrin to make his case for Christ as the logical continuation of Judaism in Acts 23 (see notes). Likewise, they were determined that Paul must be put to death before he left Jerusalem.

The Romans subsequently moved Paul to Caesarea for safekeeping and another trial which took place before Felix (Acts 24, see notes) after the Sanhedrin sends their crack team of prosecutors to Caesarea. Even though he is not found guilty, Paul was kept in custody for two years in Caesarea. When Festus replaced Felix as Roman procurator of Judea, Paul was once again tried in the presence of his Jewish accusers who came in from Jerusalem in Acts 25 (see notes). Since Festus seemed to be favoring letting them take Paul back to Jerusalem for another trial (undoubtedly a mock trial), Paul instead invoked his Roman citizenship and appealed to Caesar in Rome. That's where we are here in Acts 27.

It's a tough boat ride to Rome...and it's over 2,100 miles. What's more, we see that the wind was not very cooperative. After about a thousand miles of travel, Paul warned that the rest of the trip would be treacherous if they did not wait for better weather. What does a Pharisee-turned-Christian-preacher know about the weather? Luke doesn't report that Paul's warning came as a result of prophetic insight, but rather states that Paul said in verse 10, "I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much lost." The Greek word used there for "perceive" is "theoreo," which simply indicates information obtained by observation. Good observational skills, Paul! However, he was ignored, and they proceeded on - bad move!

It is interesting to note that Julius, the centurion in charge of Paul's transport, was very kind to Paul in verse 3 - gave him liberty to go see some friends while docked there. It would certainly appear that the Romans were not sympathetic with the mission of the Jewish leaders to see Paul put to death. Nevertheless, a soldier's job is a soldier's job.

The "Fast" of verse 9 must be a reference to the one prescribed by the law for Day of Atonement found in Leviticus 16:29-34 (see notes).

Paul gets an opportunity to preach (Acts 27:13-26)

13 ¶ When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete.
14 But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon.
15 So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive.
16 And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty.
17 When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven.
18 And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship.
19 On the third day we threw the ship’s tackle overboard with our own hands.
20 Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.
21 ¶ But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss.
22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.
23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve,
24 saying, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’
25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.
26 However, we must run aground on a certain island.”

Well, Paul had warned them. The storm comes and they start throwing stuff overboard. The wind had a name, Euroclydon (remember that name for Bible Trivia). Today it is called Levanter, an Easterly wind blowing off the Straits of Gibraltar. Finally, after several days of fighting the storm (and losing), and when the situation seemed hopeless (verse 20), Paul stands up to address the crew; he begins with an I-told-you-so statement in verse 21. That establishes his credibility for the statement he is about to make. He tells them that an angel appeared before him (that very night) to tell him that all lives would be spared; he must appear in Rome. They must have conjectured, if he was right about the storm, he must be right about this, their safety. Paul concludes his remarks in verses 25-26 with some good news and some bad news: The good news - I believe God (no loss of life); the bad news - gonna be shipwrecked on an island.

Who made Paul the sailing expert? (Acts 27:27-38)

27 ¶ Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land.
28 And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms.
29 Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come.
30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow,
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 away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off.
33 ¶ And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing.
34 Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.”
35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.
36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves.
37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship.
38 So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.

What a picture! Paul, the prisoner, is calling the shots. Here's a ship about to wreck with 276 people on board. Hey! This storm has lasted 14 days so far. That's when the crew members of the ship decide to make a run for it on the lifeboats. Paul declares to the centurion that all who stay with the ship will be safe. The centurion, in turn, has his soldiers cut the lifeboats loose (no wonder the Army doesn't like the Navy). Paul tells them to eat; they eat. Who's in charge around here anyway? Then it's time to dump the wheat.

Boom - no more ship! (Acts 27:39-44)

39 ¶ When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible.
40 And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore.
41 But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves.
42 ¶ And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape.
43 But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land,
44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.

Finally...the inevitable - the ship crashes into a reef and breaks up. The soldiers wanted to execute the prisoners to keep them from escaping, but the centurion, wanting to keep Paul alive, forbade this action. All were safely brought to shore floating on pieces of the broken ship, etc. So, just as Paul had said, all were safely brought to shore alive, but what a ride!

Stranded on Malta (Acts 28:1-15)

1 Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta.
2 And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold.
3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.”
5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.
6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
7 ¶ In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days.
8 And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him.
9 So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed.
10 They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary.
11 ¶ After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island.
12 And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days.
13 From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli,
14 where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome.
15 And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.

Of course, when you're floating ashore on pieces of the boat, you're happy to be stranded anywhere. The island called Melita is probably modern-day Malta south of Italy. And the natives were really friendly - prepared a fire and a meal. As they were eating, however, a snake jumped up and chomped down on Paul's hand. If you're superstitious, that's a bad sign. They figured an act of God like that must mean you're a bad person...real bad! But when Paul went on about his business with no ill effects, these superstitious people change their opinions about Paul and decide that he must be a really good person - perhaps even a god. Well, from that night Paul was regarded as very special by the natives. He prayed for a prominent resident of the island who was healed and subsequently prayed for a number of locals who were likewise healed. Then...after a three-month stay on the island, it's time to resume the journey to Rome. It has been a long, very treacherous trip, but Paul finally arrives in Rome.

Prison isn't so bad (Acts 28:16-31)

16 ¶ Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.
17 ¶ And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans,
18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death.
19 But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation.
20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”
21 ¶ Then they said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you.
22 But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”
23 ¶ So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.
24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.
25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers,
26 saying,
“Go to this people and say:
‘Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.” ’
28 ¶ “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!”
29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.
30 ¶ Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him,
31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

When they arrive in Rome, Paul discovers from the Jewish leadership there that no accusers nor letters from accusers have preceded him. Paul takes matters into his own hands and calls for the Jewish leaders in Rome to come hear him. Paul quotes to them Isaiah 6:9-10 (see notes), "And He said, 'Go, and tell this people: "Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive." 'Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.'" Of the local Jews, some reject the message of Christ while others accept.

Being so far away from Rome, these Jews don't stir up trouble like the ones in Jerusalem. Therefore, Paul lives in his own house and teaches in Rome for two years...under Roman protection, during which time he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. This is a little different as far as prison ministries go; the prisoner here is doing the preaching and ministry to non prisoners - what a concept!

What about Paul's death?
Here we are - finished up in Acts and Paul seems to be doing well.

Following is the entry found in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia which sums up what is known and what is guessed about Paul's last years before his death:

Last Imprisonment and Death, 68 (or 67) AD:
When Paul writes again to Timothy he has had a winter in prison, and has suffered greatly from the cold and does not wish to spend another winter in the Mamertine (probably) prison (2 Tim 4:13,21). We do not know what the charges now are. They may have been connected with the burning of Rome. There were plenty of informers eager to win favor with Nero. Proof was not now necessary. Christianity is no longer a religio licita under the shelter of Judaism. It is now a crime to be a Christian. It is dangerous to be seen with Paul now, and he feels the desertion keenly (2 Tim 1:15 ff; 4:10). Only Luke, the beloved physician, is with Paul (2 Tim 4:11), and such faithful ones as live in Rome still in hiding (2 Tim 4:21). Paul hopes that Timothy may come and bring Mark also (2 Tim 4:11). Apparently Timothy did come and was put into prison (He 13:23). Paul is not afraid. He knows that he will die. He has escaped the mouth of the lion (2 Tim 4:17), but he will die (2 Tim 4:18). The Lord Jesus stood by him, perhaps in visible presence (2 Tim 4:17). The tradition is, for now Paul fails us, that Paul, as a Roman citizen, was beheaded on the Ostian Road just outside of Rome. Nero died June, 68 AD, so that Paul was executed before that date, perhaps in the late spring of that year (or 67). Perhaps Luke and Timothy were with him. It is fitting, as Findlay suggests, to let Paul’s words in 2 Tim 4:6-8 serve for his own epitaph. He was ready to go to be with Jesus, as he had long wished to be (Phil 1:23).