I am joining Bishop Carter of the Florida United Methodist Conference this year in reading through two New Testament books written by Dr. Luke, as inspired by the Holy Spirit. I will be using the New Living Translation published by Tyndale. My reflections will be the inspirations I sense as I read. There are 24 chapters in Luke's Gospel and 28 chapters in the Acts of the Apostles. Together they total 52 chapters...one chapter for each week of 2014. Please join us!
28 Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta.2 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.
3 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.4 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.”5 But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed.6 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.
Thus came the idea of handling snakes to prove you are filled with the Spirit. Ugh.
7 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.8 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.9 Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed.10 As a result we were showered with honors, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip.
Cast your bread upon the waters, and soon it will come back to you. When you sow kindness, you will reap kindness.
Paul Arrives at Rome
11 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[a] as its figurehead.12 Our first stop was Syracuse,[b] where we stayed three days.13 From there we sailed across to Rhegium.[c] A day later a south wind began blowing, so the following day we sailed up the coast to Puteoli.14 There we found some believers,[d] who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.
15 The brothers and sisters[e] in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum[f] on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns.[g] When Paul saw them, he was encouraged and thanked God.
16 When we arrived in Rome, Paul was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier.
Paul Preaches at Rome under Guard
17 Three days after Paul’s arrival, he called together the local Jewish leaders. He said to them, “Brothers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Roman government, even though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors.18 The Romans tried me and wanted to release me, because they found no cause for the death sentence.19 But when the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no desire to press charges against my own people.20 I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could explain to you that I am bound with this chain because I believe that the hope of Israel—the Messiah—has already come.”
21 They replied, “We have had no letters from Judea or reports against you from anyone who has come here.22 But we want to hear what you believe, for the only thing we know about this movement is that it is denounced everywhere.”
An open door for Paul to preach his God-given message!
23 So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul’s lodging. He explained and testified about the Kingdom of God and tried to persuade them about Jesus from the Scriptures. Using the law of Moses and the books of the prophets, he spoke to them from morning until evening.24 Some were persuaded by the things he said, but others did not believe.25 And after they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul: “The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet,
26 ‘Go and say to this people: When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. 27 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’[h]
28 So I want you to know that this salvation from God has also been offered to the Gentiles, and they will accept it.”[i]
30 For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense.[j] He welcomed all who visited him,31 boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.
Even though I have read of the many trials and persecutions Paul went through, I do not recall exactly how he died. I believed he died in Rome, but the circumstances I do not recall. I'll have to research.
Thank you, Paul, for remaining faithful to your call from God. Thank you for boldly proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ and the freedom we have in believing in Him. Thank you for all your letters that give us guidance in how to walk in the Spirit and surrender the flesh. I join with you in proclaiming I am crucified with Christ...therefore I no longer live. Jesus Christ now lives in me!!
28:11The twin gods were the Roman gods Castor and Pollux.
27 When the time came, we set sail for Italy. Paul and several other prisoners were placed in the custody of a Roman officer[a] named Julius, a captain of the Imperial Regiment.2 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;[b] it was scheduled to make several stops at ports along the coast of the province.
3 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.4 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.5 Keeping to the open sea, we passed along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, landing at Myra, in the province of Lycia.6 There the commanding officer found an Egyptian ship from Alexandria that was bound for Italy, and he put us on board.
7 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.8 We struggled along the coast with great difficulty and finally arrived at Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.9 We had lost a lot of time. The weather was becoming dangerous for sea travel because it was so late in the fall,[c] and Paul spoke to the ship’s officers about it.
10 “Men,” he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on—shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to our lives as well.”11 But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul.12 And since Fair Havens was an exposed harbor—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 harbor with only a southwest and northwest exposure.
The Storm at Sea
13 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.14 But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea.15 The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale.
16 We sailed along the sheltered side of a small island named Cauda,[d] where with great difficulty we hoisted aboard the lifeboat being towed behind us.17 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.
18 The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard.19 The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard.20 The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone.
21 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.22 But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down.23 For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me,24 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.’25 So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.26 But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”
So, I wonder if this brought encouragement to the travelers, the sailors. I guess they would be grasping for any hope they could find during the raging storms. Did any of them turn to God, come to believe in Jesus? Or did they disregard Paul? I'm sure they listened, with a wait and see attitude.
27 About midnight on the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were being driven across the Sea of Adria,[e] the sailors sensed land was near.28 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.[f]29 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.
30 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.31 But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.”32 So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away.
33 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.34 “Please eat something now for your own good. For not a hair of your heads will perish.”35 Then he took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it.36 Then everyone was encouraged and began to eat—37 all 276 of us who were on board.38 After eating, the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard.
39 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.40 So they cut off the anchors and left them in the sea. Then they lowered the rudders, raised the foresail, and headed toward shore.41 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.
42 The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn’t swim ashore and escape.43 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.44 The others held on to planks or debris from the broken ship.[g] So everyone escaped safely to shore.
Just as Paul said. I would think many asked Paul about his God, and hopefully they put their faith in Him.
26 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak in your defense.”
So Paul, gesturing with his hand, started his defense:2 “I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defense today against all these accusations made by the Jewish leaders,3 for I know you are an expert on all Jewish customs and controversies. Now please listen to me patiently!
4 “As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem.5 If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion.6 Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors.7 In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope!8 Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?
9 “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene.[a]10 Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers[b] there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death.11 Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus.[c] I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
12 “One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests.13 About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions.14 We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[d]‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.[e]’
15 “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.16 Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future.17 And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles18 to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’
Here Paul is recounting his journey to Damascus where Jesus confronted him...first told in Acts 9. This is his conversion story.
19 “And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven.20 I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do.21 Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me.22 But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen—23 that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”
24 Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!”
25 But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth.26 And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner!27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—”
28 Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”[f]
29 Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”
30 Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left.31 As they went out, they talked it over and agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.”
32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”
Almost persuaded, but not converted. How sad...all for the sake of pride. Festus and Agrippa, and so many others, have eternity to regret not listening to Paul.