Paul’s Journey to Rome (By Les Kovacs)
Text: Acts 27 - 28
Observe: In the previous chapters, Paul has been tried several times by the Jews in order to stop him from preaching the gospel of Christ, even as he continually proves by scripture how Jesus has fulfilled all the prophecies foretold by the prophets. The Jews still consider him to be a troublemaker and want to condemn him to death, but because he is Roman citizen, the local governor decides to send him to Rome to make his final appeal.
Paul is put the charge of a Centurion named Julius, who takes him, along with some other disciples and various prisoners, aboard a ship in Caesarea on a long voyage to Rome. They make numerous ports of call along the way, but being autumn, the winds seemed always to be against them, and they made very slow progress. In Fair Havens on the Island of Crete, Paul warns the Centurion how dangerous the voyage is becoming. But, because the harbour is not suitable for over-wintering, and on the advice of the ship’s pilot and owner, they continue on, planning to stay in a place called Phoenix. As they continue sailing west, they are battered by hurricane strength winds, and despite taking extraordinary safety measures, they must throw cargo and some of the ship’s tackle overboard to lighten the ship. The storm rages for more than two weeks, and throughout it, Paul encourages the ship’s company to take heart because the Lord had told him that not one member would be lost, although the ship eventually would run aground. Paul even encouraged them eat in order to keep up their strength, and after they had eaten, they even threw the remaining food overboard.
Just as Paul had predicted, ship ran aground on the island of Malta, but everyone survived. The locals showed the survivors usual kindness and built fires to warm them after their shipwreck. While this was going on, a snake bit Paul and the superstitious people thought he must be murderer, but when he was miraculously unharmed, they thought perhaps he was a god instead. While they stayed in Malta, Paul heals a local official’s sick father through prayer, and once word spread of the healing, other people came forward to be healed. After a three month stay, they were resupplied and set sail on a new ship bound for Italy, with a couple more stops along the way.
Their voyage ended in the port of Puteoll, south of Rome, where he was met by some local believers before being moved to Rome. There, he was allowed to live by himself with only one guard assigned to watch him. Once there, he spoke with the Jewish leaders and explained why he was arrested and sent to Rome. They hadn’t heard any of the accusations against him and were interested in hearing what he had to say. Once again, Paul preached the Gospel of Christ and taught from the scriptures as he always did, and once again some people believed and others did not. In his final statement, Paul quoted from Isaiah saying that God’s chosen people would refuse to listen or understand, and so he would go and preach salvation to the Gentiles, who would listen. For the next two years, Paul would welcome anyone who came to him and he preached about Jesus with courage and clarity.
Interpret: God had work for Paul to do in Rome. So all the shenanigans of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to convict him of some specious wrongdoing played right into God’s will, and sent Paul on his way to Rome. It was a long and dangerous voyage, fraught with hardship, but Paul never once doubted the Lord’s goodness, and continued to preach the Gospel of Christ, and in the name of the Lord, to perform whatever healing miracles were needed wherever he happened to be. He made the most of each and every opportunity afforded him on this arduous trip. He was a prisoner. He was abused. He endured cold, wind, hunger, high seas, a hurricane, and a shipwreck. And he was bitten by a snake. Now, some people might be somewhat discouraged by these events if they had occurred to them, but not Paul. None of these circumstances presented an obstacle to Paul in sharing the Gospel and talking about the Kingdom of God. He only saw them as new opportunities. The only obstacle that he encountered in all his journeys was the hardness of the people’s hearts. Those whose hearts were willing to listen, became followers of Christ. Those whose hearts were hardened against him, only wanted to be rid of him, and by extension, be rid of the gospel he preached.
Application: One of the reasons we love St. Aidan’s church is because we hear the Gospel of Christ preached every Sunday. No one can come here and say they didn’t hear what Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God, has done for us. It is a gospel of compassion, love and hope. But it has a difficult side to it as well, one that is opposed to the wisdom of this world, and that too, you will hear preached on a Sunday morning because we preach the whole of the Gospel, not just the nice, comfortable parts.
The wisdom of this world measures success in material ways, by the accumulation of wealth, power and fame. The wisdom of this world puts the “I” (self) into idol. The wisdom of this world puts us at the center of our own little universe. We set ourselves up to be sovereign over all we survey, but in the secret places of our hearts we despair that we will ever be able to deal with all the challenges we face. The bills that keeping coming; our health issues that keep us from enjoying just being alive; our family struggles which consume our energies; the challenges at work that keep piling on the stresses; and a thousand other things that get in the way of the life that we dream about.
But, Jesus knows all about the difficulties we struggle with, and about the world we live in. He has walked the proverbial mile in our shoes, and more. He says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” He has overcome the trials of this world and He wants to help us deal with our own daily struggles by inviting us into a personal relationship with Him. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” We don’t have to do it alone.
Once you know that and believe it in your core, you will want to share that good news with whoever is willing to hear it. But, by believing, preaching, and living the gospel, we will always be opposed by the powers of the world because it threatens the current world view. Yet, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, as disciples of Jesus Christ, God will provide opportunities to for us to share the life-giving good news of the gospel and the means to do it effectively, if we are obedient to Him. And every day, He gives us another opportunity to show the world what it is to be a disciple of Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”. Luke 9:23.
Questions: Are you in a personal storm right now? Do you believe that Jesus will help you weather it? Can you see yourself sharing your story with someone else who might be floundering in their own storm?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that by the leading of your Holy Spirit, we might have the wisdom and courage to share the gospel with someone who doesn’t know you. We thank you that through all the trials of our life, you have been a refuge and the source of our strength and hope. Help us always to keep our sights set firmly on Jesus, in whose holy name we pray. Amen.
Song: Until the Whole World Hears: Casting Crowns
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.