Acts 27

Acts 27
by Pastor Mark Hudson

Finally, Paul is on his way to Rome.  As a Roman citizen, Paul had probably always wanted to visit Rome, but hardly in this way.  Rome gave to the world a great gift: democracy.  So much of what we value in the United States as well as many other countries of the world had its origin in the Roman government.  We have read of the value of Roman citizenship in Paul’s various trials.  Luke shows that Rome’s government was more just than the Jewish system.  We often read that Paul’s life was spared because of Rome.

The Romans were not only world conquerors but road builders, educators, and efficient administrators.  They were able to incorporate Greek, Roman, and Barbarians as well as many other religions to spread the pax Romana or Roman peace around the Mediterranean Sea.  There were so many reasons for a citizen to visit Rome, but Paul had a spiritual reason as well.  Paul felt like in his short trips to Asia Minor and Greece, he had reached that part of the world.  He wanted to go to Rome to spread the gospel and then go on to Spain which to him, was the farthest one could go.  Paul was transformed and transfixed by the gospel.  Jesus Christ, Him crucified and raised from the dead, is all Paul cared about.  And Rome is where he wanted to preach Christ.

Chapter 27 details the journey that Paul takes to arrive at Rome. Paul, along with Luke and Aristarchus, “a Macedonian from Thessalonica,” along with a total of 276 people on the ship, had a rough ride due to poor decisions by the pilot, centurion, and owner of the ship.  The centurion, leader of 100 men, was Julius who came to listen to Paul, after first not listening to Paul.  They left on a ship from Adramyttium that was a coast hugging ship not suitable for sailing to Rome. They sailed on that ship until they found “a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy” which may have been a ship carrying grain since Egypt supplied grain to Italy.

Since they were sailing later in the fall – probably the fall of 59 – they had a difficult time because of westerly winds.  They ended up, “with difficulty” repeated two times in vs. 7 and 8, in Fair Havens on Crete. Fair Havens was not a place the majority wanted to winter, so the centurion and the majority decided to keep going.  Paul, in v 10, warned them that this decision would result in “injury, much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also our lives.”  This would not be the last time Paul would speak up.

The wind was at their backs for a while until a northeastern wind and drive the ship along.  In v. 17, they frapped the vessels by passing cables under the ship or above board they lashed the stern and bow to prevent the breaking of the ship.  Due to the storm, being “violently storm-tossed” they threw cargo overboard. Then on the third day, the tackle.  They had given up hope by v. 20.  Here Paul again speaks up.  He rebukes them for not listening to him (a prisoner).  Then he tells them that “an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship” told Paul that not only would he get to Rome to stand before Caesar, but all the rest would be saved in vs. 23-25.  Then Paul expresses confidence in God and adds, “But we must run aground on some island.”  We can only imagine what the ship thought of this man.

After two weeks, at midnight, the sailor sensed they were getting near land. They lowered four anchors to prevent the ship from hitting rocks.  As some of sailors attempted to use the lifeboat to escape, Paul tells the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.  So, the soldiers listen to Paul and let the lifeboat go.  Imagine they are listening to a prisoner but one who may have travelled 3,500  miles by sea (Haenchen, Ernst.  The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary p. 716). Barclay writes that “Paul was the most experienced traveler on board that ship (Barclay, William. The Acts of the Apostles in The Daily Study Bible).

Paul is still not done.  He tells them they need to eat, “for it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.”  He prays for the food and passengers.  They began to eat and all encouraged.  After they ate their fill, they threw the wheat into the sea.  As day dawned, they could see land and tried to sail to a sandy beach but to no avail.  They got stuck.  The ship was beginning to be smashed by the waves.  As the soldiers planned to kill the soldiers, the centurion wanted to save Paul’s life and told them all to swim ashore, which they did.  We end the chapter with God’s word to Paul fulfilled.  The grab life preservers which are planks from the ship and reach shore.  What a trip.

Paul is confident in his relationship with God.  I love who Paul talks about God to these soldiers and sailors who are not exactly the kind of men who love to worship God.  In vs. 21 and following, Paul says “God to whom I belong” which is how Paul thought of his life.  Paul did not use his faith to gain attention, take an offering, but his faith was sincere, personal, and genuine.  And he served or worshipped this holy God.  He loved and adored God and God was the center of Paul’s life.  Paul was the same person on a storm-tossed ship as when he was preaching.  He was serving these men on the ship like Paul served everyone around him.

Paul could have said that God was the Creator of the sea, or He was the final judge.  But to Paul, he was the God to whom I belong.  I get shivers thinking of that phrase. Paul reassured the sailors and soldiers that they would be saved because God wanted Paul to go to Rome.  The way they felt about Paul at the end of their journey was different than how they viewed this prisoner at the beginning of the trip.  In fact, in Malta, Paul is worshipped as a god and heals the father of Publius,  For Paul, he is hated or worshipped.  He is listened to intently or people cancel his speech and want him dead.  He is willing to perish for his love for the Jews and many Jews try repeatedly to kill him.  Yet, Paul continued to love others and always loved God.

Dear heavenly Father, we are always in the palm of Your hand, protected from harm yet also allowed to suffer for the kingdom’s sake.  Everything that comes to us is by design and because of Your sovereign will.  May we always know that we belong to You.  You are ours and we are Yours.  Help us to remember that we serve and worship You only.  We are here to do Your will.  We do not ask You to do our will.  As simple as this sounds, we have a strong will and in our twisted sinful minds, we actually think the Creator of the universe should serve us.  Forgive us and correct us so we can enjoy the fullness of joy that You, and only You, can provide.  In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.