Monday, January 3, 2011

Acts 27 – Paul’s Perilous Journey

Acts 27

[Remember Paul was mobbed and beaten then arrested by Claudius Lysias in Jerusalem, nearly torn apart in the council; then sent to Caesarea because of a murder conspiracy to be judged by Felix, Festus and Herod Agrippa. Appealing to Caesar to avoid being sent back to Jerusalem where assassins waited, Paul is to be transported to Rome.]

The Voyage to Rome Begins

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.

[You will notice the "we" in verse 1 means that Luke has joined with Paul for his journey to Rome. Paul also has Aristarchus a Macedonian who had traveled with Paul in Acts 19 and 20 as part of Paul's roving seminary class. This is odd for us to understand, but in a time where prisoners were not well cared for Paul is often allowed to have companions who provide for him. Adramyttium is the Latin name for a port town near Troas in Asia Minor, though they board the ship in Caesarea, its home port is Adramyttium. Since they stay near the shore traveling up the coast; this is probably not a large boat suited for the open water.]

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.

[Sidon is a fishing town along the southern coast of Lebanon. Here again we see Paul's imprisonment is treated like a house arrest; because he is allowed to stay with friends at Sidon, no doubt these are brethren that Paul encountered on his previous travels. We begin to see here that it was not a good time of the year for travel, and the winds turn against them so they try to use the island of Cyprus to stay out of the heavy winds.]

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.

[Myra of Lycia, is a part of modern day Turkey and was also home to a 4th century Bishop named Nicholas of Myra, or later Saint Nicholas, and it is his good works that inspired the legend of Santa Claus. Here they board a larger ship suitable to the trip to Italy.]

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.

Paul's Warning Ignored

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.

[They try to sail around the isle of Crete but the weather is against them and the make very little progress. Fair Havens is too small a harbor to spend the winter, so the sailors want to try for Phoenix a better port. The "Fast" mentioned in verse 9 is part of the Day of Atonement, so this is late fall or early winter. Most of the wooden sailing ships would not travel much during the winter months because of the bad weather; and Paul feared that it was too dangerous to sail on this late in the year.]

In the Tempest

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.

[The Euroclydon is a northeastern storm wind also called a "Gregale"; this wind drove them from the cover of Crete out to sea. They made several attempts to weather the ship by drawing up the skiff, cinching cables around the hull of the ship for strength, and dropping the sail, making it harder for the wind to overturn the ship. The "Syrtis Sands" are shoals and sand bars off the coast of North Africa where many ships wrecked. They lightened the ship by purging all the spare ropes, sails, rigging, and tools. Then in verse 20 we see the wind, darkness, and waves, caused them to lose all hope.]

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."

[I often wonder how godless people respond when circumstances are hopeless. Paul uses the gift of prayer to petition God for the lives of his shipmates. Then an Angel appeared to Paul and told him he must see Caesar. If you remember back in Acts 23 when Paul was almost killed at the Sanhedrin Council verse 11 said "And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome." So the Angel was just confirming what Jesus had already promised; Paul would see Rome, but the ship would be wrecked.]

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.

[A fathom varied in length but it's about 2 yards. So they sea was getting more shallow, they were nearing land but without knowing the area it would be hard to land the ship without wrecking it. They drop anchors from the back of the boat to slow it down from being driven on the rocks, and prayed for daylight so they could see the shore. Some of the sailors try to sneak off in the skiff, but the soldiers cut it away.]

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.

[Often people living with despair neglect the necessary things like food. Paul had already encouraged them with his prophecy of survival, now he encourages them to eat and strengthen themselves physically. We get an idea of how large the ship was by seeing that it held 276 people. After eating they lighten the ship more by throwing out the rest of the wheat.]

Shipwrecked on Malta

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.

[They cut the anchor lines, and raised the sails to try and reach the beach within the bay but they hit a sandbar that separated the inner bay from the outer sea. With the ship grounded, the waves start breaking it apart.]

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.

[As we saw in Acts chapters 12 and 16 soldiers guarding prisoners would be responsible if they were to escape. These soldiers would protect themselves by killing all the prisoners, but the Centurion Julius vetoed that plan in order to protect Paul. So the proficient swimmers went first followed by those who floated on pieces of the broken ship, and they all make it to shore. Chapter 28 tells us they had found the island of Melita which we know to be the modern island of Malta. On the Northeastern side of the island you find St. Paul's bay the place where the Alexandrian ship is believed to have grounded. Oddly enough Malta is about 60 miles from Sicily, so even being blown around the sea for two weeks did not take them very far from their intended destination.

Compare this to the disciples crossing the sea of Galilee in that little fishing boat when a storm blew them around, and they feared they would perish, before Jesus calmed the storm. Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith, because, much like Paul, the Lord told them where they would go. Even the 12 chosen disciples at that point lacked the faith and maturity to trust the Lord through the storm. This year I hope we stop viewing "Christian" as just an improved version of "me", and realize the spirit filled man is very different in attitude and action especially when the storms of life blow us around.

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