The Initial Voyage As Far As Crete
When the time came, we set sail for Italy. Paul and several other prisoners were placed in the custody of a Roman officer named Julius, a captain of the Imperial Regiment. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was also with us. We left on a ship whose home port was Adramyttium on the northwest coast of the province of Asia; it was scheduled to make several stops at ports along the coast of the province.
The next day when we docked at Sidon, Julius was very kind to Paul and let him go ashore to visit with friends so they could provide for his needs. Putting out to sea from there, we encountered strong headwinds that made it difficult to keep the ship on course, so we sailed north of Cyprus between the island and the mainland. Keeping to the open sea, we passed along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, landing at Myra, in the province of Lycia. There the commanding officer found an Egyptian ship from Alexandria that was bound for Italy, and he put us on board.
We had several days of slow sailing, and after great difficulty we finally neared Cnidus. But the wind was against us, so we sailed across to Crete and along the sheltered coast of the island, past the cape of Salmone. We struggled along the coast with great difficulty and finally arrived at Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. We had lost a lot of time. The weather was becoming dangerous for sea travel because it was so late in the fall, and Paul spoke to the ship’s officers about it. “Men,” he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on—shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to our lives as well.”
But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul. And since Fair Havens was an exposed harbour—a poor place to spend the winter—most of the crew wanted to go on to Phoenix, farther up the coast of Crete, and spend the winter there. Phoenix was a good harbour with only a southwest and northwest exposure.Acts 27:1-12
They Encounter a Massive Storm
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.”
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. After eating, the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard.Acts 27:13-38
Shipwrecked by Grounding the Ship
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 27:39-44
I held on to this piece to see if any of you would include it. You needed to cross the chapter boundary on this one.
Shipwrecked by Grounding the Ship
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. Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us and treated us kindly for three days. As it happened, Publius’s father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed. As a result we were showered with honours, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip.Acts 28:1-10
Paul Arrives at Rome
It was three months after the shipwreck that we set sail on another ship that had wintered at the island—an Alexandrian ship with the twin gods as its figurehead. Our first stop was Syracuse, where we stayed three days. From there we sailed across to Rhegium. A day later a south wind began blowing, so the following day we sailed up the coast to Puteoli. There we found some believers, who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he was encouraged and thanked God. When we arrived in Rome, Paul was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier.Acts 28:11-16
This is a fascinating piece of writing. Luke wrote this account firsthand, being on the ship with Paul from Caesarea to Rome. This account is like no other Luke has given us. I showed you in the last Gem how all other journeys in the books of Acts are short and seemingly inconsequential to the account of the spread of the Gospel. However in this case we find Luke going into great detail in his account of Paul’s journey from Caesarea to Rome. Now you can see the account has expanded from forty-four verses to sixty. Why would Luke spend so long on the record of a journey? Well that is for you to work out as you read it over and over.
During the winter months the Mediterranean was virtually closed to sea travel. To try a journey from Palestine to Rome close to winter was foolhardy to say the least. Paul and his party set off in August or September AD 59. In other words late Autumn before the treacherous Winter storms set in. They did not reach Rome until March AD 60. Luke’s account is packed with detail related to a maritime voyage in this time and quickly gives us huge insights into the character of Paul. Bear in mind Paul was a prisoner of Romans in undertaking this journey. Yet note how quickly Paul becomes the hero in Luke’s narrative.
Spend some time, before we start dissecting the story, matching the narrative with the map I have given you. (I will take a better photo when I have natural light.) As I have said over and over in Deeper Bible classes, it is important to gain a good working knowledge of the geography and the places mentioned in Biblical narratives in order to piece together the extent and the details of the journey in focus. Or at the very least the distances involved. Again I will give you time to take it all in before we embark on our journey of discovery.
Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows it empties today of its strength.Corrie Ten Boom
Courage is fear that has said its prayers.Anon
Stop telling God how big your storm is. Instead, tell your storm how big your God is.Anon
Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.G. K. Chesterton