For an introduction to this series, click here.
June 30, 2007Paul sets sail for Rome at the beginning of this chapter. Sailing the Mediterranean was tough. There were all sorts of things that could go wrong, but it was faster than walking or taking animals around through Turkey, Greece and Italy.
It is important to note that Luke writes this chapter in the first person plural- "we" and "us"- so that means he was with Paul on this trip. Luke gives a lot of details about the trip: the different places where the ships landed and so on. Luke also mentions that "the Fast was already over." (27:9) The marginal note says the Fast is a reference to the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, which takes place in October. So that means it was getting into the winter months, a bad time to be sailing.
The ship set sail from Crete, even though Paul advised them not to. A couple of days later they got into a terrible storm. It was so bad that they did not see the sun or the moon for 14 days. Even though he was a prisoner, Paul seems to become the leader of the ship: "Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, 'Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.' So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.'" (27:21-26, ESV) It happened just as Paul said it would.
This is a tough stretch to try to comment on. It's just kind of a straight story, and not much else going on. But don't worry. We will be in Romans next week.
July 1, 2007
This is the last chapter of Acts. It does not have a proper ending because Luke just described everything that happened up until the time he wrote the book. He probably wrote most of it at Rome, where Paul was. Luke was a faithful companion to Paul.
As soon as they landed on the island of Malta, Paul had an amazing experience: "The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, 'No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.' He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god." (28:2-6)
Paul also healed the leader of the island's father and several other people. Here was an unreached group, (according to the marginal note, the word for "native people" in the above passage "barbaroi" from which of course we get the word "barbarian." It probably meant they did not speak Greek) and the Lord allowed him to perform miracles.
When Paul came to Rome, he spoke to the Jewish leaders there. It seems interesting, since earlier in the book of Acts we are told that the emperor kicked all the Jews out of Rome. But anyway, here is what Paul had to say: "Brothers, though I had 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. When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar--though I had no charge to bring against my nation. For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain."
I guess this speech from Paul confirms that he was afraid of the Jews in Judea, although I am not sure he had any reason to be. The Jews in Rome agreed to listen to Paul. The results were kind of predictable: "When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved." (28:23-24, ESV) This is the way everyone responds to the Gospel. It is not our responsibility to make everyone be saved. It is our job to proclaim the truth.
Thus ends the book of Acts. Tomorrow, we will begin in Romans. That will be fun! Let's just hope I can keep our blog segments fairly short. I may have to divide a lot of the chapters, but that will be OK too.