Paul’s Rough Sea Voyage and Shipwreck to an Island

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Photo by Porch of the Lord

(Having appealed to Caesar, Paul is sent to Rome…
a poetic narrative of Acts 27-28)

When it was decided to go to Italy, Paul and some other prisoners entered a ship at Adramyttium and were put to sea, to sail along Asia’s coasts.

Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment, treated Paul kindly, letting him receive care at Sidon from people who were Paul’s friends and hosts.

From Sidon, they sailed under the shelter of Cyprus due to the strong, contrary gales.

Then, over seas off of Cilicia and Pamphylia, they came to Myra, Lycia, where they were put aboard another ship bound for Italy in their forthcoming sails.

They sailed slowly many days, arriving with difficulty off Cnidus—the wind didn’t permit them to proceed.

So they sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone, passing it also with difficulty, coming to Fair Havens, a stop of need.

They’d lost a lot of time, and the weather was becoming dangerous as it was so late in the fall.

So Paul spoke to the ship’s officers about it—that he perceived trouble ahead, with great damage to the cargo and ship and even to the lives of them all.

But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and captain of the ship than by anything that Paul had said.

And because the harbor wasn’t suitable for wintering, the majority reached the decision to put out to sea, going ahead.

If, somehow, they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, they could spend winter there, they thought.

So when a moderate south wind came up, they supposed they’d attained their purpose, weighed anchor, and began sailing along Crete, on the route they sought.

But before very long, a violent wind, called Euraquilo, rushed down to sea from the land.

And when the ship was caught in it, and couldn’t face the wind, they gave way to it and were driven along—totally unplanned.

Running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, they were scarcely able to get the ship’s lifeboat under control.

After they’d hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship and let down the sea anchor. Avoiding being run aground on the shallows of Syrtis was the goal.

The next day, as they were being violently storm-tossed, they began to throw the cargo overboard.

On the third day, they threw the tackle over, another thing the ship was carrying but which they could no longer afford.

Sun nor stars appeared for many days, and of the thought of being saved, they’d gradually lost hope.

After having gone without food for a long time, Paul reminded them that if they’d listened to him, with this storm and loss they wouldn’t have had to cope.

Yet he urged them to not lose courage, saying there would be no loss of life among them, but only of the ship.

He shared that this he knew by way of the appearance of an angel of God, who had come and stood before him on the trip.

The angel told Paul that he would yet stand before Caesar and that God had granted him the lives of all those sailing along.

So Paul, again, strongly encouraged them, saying that he believed God and that God’s predictions were never wrong.

He added, however, that on a certain island, they would run aground.

And after the fourteenth night in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight, some of the sailors began to sense that land ahead might soon be found.

They took soundings as they approached; and not wanting to run aground on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern, wishing for dawn’s light.

Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship, lowering the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front, but they couldn’t quite…

for Paul said to the centurion and his soldiers, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.”

So the soldiers cut away the ropes of the lifeboat and let it fall away before any escape could be braved.

Until the day was about to break, Paul encouraged them that not a hair of their heads would perish—that they should not be anxious, going without eating—but to take some food.

He himself took bread and gave thanks to God in their presence and began to eat. So all the others on board took food as well, encouraged and their spirits renewed.

Two hundred seventy-six persons were aboard; and when all had eaten enough, they lightened the ship by casting overboard their wheat.

When day broke, they couldn’t recognize the land but observed a certain bay with a beach. They resolved to drive the ship onto it, if they could accomplish the feat.

So, casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, loosened the ropes of the rudders, and hoisted the foresail to the wind—then headed for the beach.

But they struck a reef where two seas met and ran the vessel aground. The prow stuck fast and remained immovable. The stern began to break up by many a wave’s forceful reach.

The soldiers had planned to kill the prisoners so that none would swim away and escape; however, the centurion wanted to bring Paul safely through.

So, he kept them from those intentions and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first—the others to follow on planks from the ship or anything with which they could make do.

Thus it happened that all were brought safely to the land—they found that Malta was this particular island’s name.

There, the natives showed extraordinary kindness… Due to rain that had set in and the cold, they received them all and kindled for them a fire’s warming flames.

When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out, due to the heat, and fastened on his hand.

Seeing this, the natives expressed the thought that, likely, Paul was a murderer, lucky to escape the sea, but that death by snakebite was somehow justice served—perhaps divinely planned.

But Paul shook the creature off, back into the fire—the incident, for him, was not ill-fated.

Then the natives, who had expected him to swell up and die, suddenly changed their minds and said that with a “god” he could be equated.

In that region, there was a leading citizen, Publius, by name, at whose estate they were welcomed for three days.

The father of this man lay sick with a fever and dysentery. So Paul went in to him, laid his hands on him, and he was healed. Paul was continuing to follow his Lord Jesus’s compassionate healing ways.

When this was done, other natives on the island who had illnesses also received from Paul’s healing ministry during his stay.

The islanders honored Paul in many ways, giving him and the others much in provision before the time when they would again sail away.

P. A. Oltrogge

“For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness, has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.” Acts 27:23-25 NLT

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