“Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us. As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand. The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.”
Acts of the Apostles 28:1-6 NLT
Relieved to reach the shore safe and sound, the whole group was greeted, and treated, with acceptance and kindness by the natives. They made a fire to warm them since they had endured weeks of unrelenting, stormy, wet conditions. As Paul retrieved sticks for the fire, and placed them on the fire, a venomous snake came out of the fire and latched itself on him. Expecting Paul to drop dead in minutes, the people murmured that although the sea had not claimed Paul's life, justice was now served to this man through means of the snake. Since he was a prisoner, and since the natives didn't know Paul, they assumed that he was a common criminal.
However, when he didn't even get sick, they proclaimed that he must be a god. Pagan cultures worship many gods. It isn't surprising that they would call him a deity. Paul knew better.
Interesting, it is, that in spite of the toil and anguish of enduring the two week storm and the shipwreck, Paul serves his fellow men. Regardless of their being, largely, pagans, he humbly loved and served them. Where were all of the others when it came time to gather wood?
How about you? Are you nursing your wounds or are you thinking of others? Let's be servants of Jesus in all of life's circumstances. God can, and will, use that kind of heart to reach the world!
“When morning dawned, they didn’t recognize the coastline, but they saw a bay with a beach and wondered if they could get to shore by running the ship aground. So they cut off the anchors and left them in the sea. Then they lowered the rudders, raised the foresail, and headed toward shore. But they hit a shoal and ran the ship aground too soon. The bow of the ship stuck fast, while the stern was repeatedly smashed by the force of the waves and began to break apart. The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn’t swim ashore and escape. But the commanding officer wanted to spare Paul, so he didn’t let them carry out their plan. Then he ordered all who could swim to jump overboard first and make for land. The others held on to planks or debris from the broken ship. So everyone escaped safely to shore.”
(Acts of the Apostles 27:39-44 NLT)
The daybreak brought sight of shore. The crew hoisted the sail and set the rudder to let the wind drive the ship toward the beach. Their apparent thought was to run aground in the softer sand of the bay. However, a shoal (unseen beneath the surface) was struck and the front of the ship got stuck. The waves beat vehemently against the back of the ship and broke it apart. The roman soldiers began to contemplate killing the prisoners for fear of their escaping. If prisoners escaped, the Roman soldiers would pay with their lives. In an instant, the Roman commander decided not to harm the prisoners because he wanted Paul kept alive. It appears that Paul had gained the trust and confidence of many on board, if not all of them. In the midst of terrible circumstances, Jesus used Paul to display His character. Can God count on us to do the same or are we wrapped up in our own self preservation. God is looking for those who will portray His likeness to the world around them, even in harsh circumstances.
Lastly, everyone went into the water. Some could swim and apparently others could not, so they grabbed pieces of the ship and perhaps were aided by the crew and Roman soldiers.
It is interesting that the presence of one man of God on a ship of 276 people made all the difference in the world for the rest of the passengers, crew, and soldiers. God wants to display Himself to the world through you as well. Are you available and ready? He's waiting!
About midnight on the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were being driven across the Sea of Adria, the sailors sensed land was near. They dropped a weighted line and found that the water was 120 feet deep. But a little later they measured again and found it was only 90 feet deep. At this rate they were afraid we would soon be driven against the rocks along the shore, so they threw out four anchors from the back of the ship and prayed for daylight. Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship. But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.” So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away. Just as day was dawning, Paul urged everyone to eat. “You have been so worried that you haven’t touched food for two weeks,” he said. “Please eat something now for your own good. For not a hair of your heads will perish.” Then he took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it. Then everyone was encouraged and began to eat— all 276 of us who were on board.
(Acts of the Apostles 27:27-37NLT).
Fourteen days and nights had come and gone. The storm was still raging. Somehow the captain could sense the nearness of land. The crew checked the water depth with a rope that had a weight attached to the end. The first drop showed that the water was approximately 120 feet. The second check was about 90 feet. It was obvious that the ship was headed into a body of land. In order to try to prevent the waves and wind from driving the ship against a rocky shore, the crew dropped the back anchors and tried to abandon the ship and its passengers by attempting to lower the lifeboat as though they were letting down anchors at the front of the ship. Paul cried out to the crew that they would all die unless they remained on board (see vs. 30-31). They must have remembered the discussion that Paul had with the Roman officer before they left the harbor of Fair Havens (Acts 27:8). Paul had told him that there would be shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to their lives if they sailed (Acts 27:10). However, the officer in charge of the prisoners believed the captain and the ship owner more than Paul (Acts 27:11). In fact, most of the ships crew also wanted to leave Fair Havens in order to spend the winter in Phoenix (a better port to weather the winter - See Acts 27:12).
If we would have been the officer, we would have most likely listened to the ship captain and owner before listening to a preacher as well. Listening to a seasoned mariner makes more natural sense than listening to an imprisoned preacher. This time, however, they listened to the man of God.
At daylight, Paul told them to eat something. He prayed and gave thanks to God before them all. All 276 passengers took bread and were encouraged.
The word "us" is used in Acts 27:37. This refers to Luke who is Paul's traveling companion and stenographer (the one who is writing down the dictations of another). Luke recorded the events, as they transpired, for historical documentation.
Can you imagine being on board a ship with no telecommunications, of any kind, back to shore. There were no toilets, sinks, bathtubs, or sleeping cabins. This wasn't a Caribbean cruise. This was a large vessel made of wood that had sails and no engine. There were no life preservers. No one had a cell phone. The food was only the bare essentials. This wasn't a vacation. A portion of the passengers were prisoners being escorted by Roman guard to Rome for trial and, perhaps, execution. Consider the the utter terror that was experienced by all on board. Even the most experienced mariners were worried sick.
One man, however, had the hope of Christ alive in his heart, Paul. He trusted God with his life and I'm sure his companion Luke did as well. As believers, we must let the presence of Christ, and the hope He brings, shine through us to an unbelieving world. It may appear that we are in a situation that seems to be the end, but remember, Jesus is with us! He will take care of us. The storm can never be greater than the Master. He still delivers!!!
May God use us to demonstrate, to the world, His faithfulness and mercy.
When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale. We sailed along the sheltered side of a small island named Cauda, where with great difficulty we hoisted aboard the lifeboat being towed behind us. Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind. The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard. The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. 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. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.” (Acts of the Apostles 27:13-26 NLT)
What an experience! Can you imagine living through such an event. Here you are: Aboard a ship (with no way to call for help), in the middle of a typhoon, and at the mercy of the storm and sea. Frightened would be an appropriate description. Everyone on board had lost hope, except for Paul. Why? His hope was in the Word of the Lord! God had sent an angel to assure Paul that he would make it to Rome to stand before Caesar. Paul shared this word with his fellow shipmates.
God has given us His Word and we, too, must share It with our fellow man.
No matter what storm is raging in your life today, TRUST GOD! He will not fail you!
Rev. Curtis Norris