For several weeks we’ve been watching the Apostle Paul demonstrate the love of God and represent the presence of God in front of a humanistic, materialistic, hostile, unbelieving world. Paul was taken into protective custody when a riot broke out around him in Jerusalem. The Roman Governor, Felix wanted to let him go, but Paul kept appealing his case. This morning, Paul is being sent to Rome to be tried by Caesar.
Acts 27:1 – “When it was decided that we should sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a Centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment.”
“When it was decided that we should sail for Italy…” As far as Paul was concerned, all the events and circumstances of his life had already been “decided” a long time ago. Back when he was known as “Saul,” he was travelling to Damascus to arrest the followers of Jesus. A bright light from heaven knocked him to the ground. That’s the day Paul found out that God wasn’t who he thought He was.
That’s the day Paul discovered that God knew his name and He had a purpose for his life. It was there; it was then; while he was lying blind on that road, that Paul made what turned out to be the last, the greatest and most important decision of his life. He decided to open his heart and surrender his life to Jesus. While he was lying there blinded on the ground, he cried out, “Lord, what shall I do?” (Acts 22:10) and he gave his life over to Christ.
From that moment on, his present and his future were completely in God’s hands and it was the Lord who decided; it was the Lord who directed the outcome of every event and circumstance in Paul’s life. God had decided that Paul should go to Jerusalem.
Paul told the Elders of the Church in Ephesus that he was “compelled by the (Holy) Spirit” to go to Jerusalem; “Not knowing what will happen to me there.” It doesn’t matter what will happen to me there, God is calling me to Jerusalem. Then, when an angry mob was trying to tear him to pieces in Jerusalem, it had already been “decided” that he was going to Rome.
Acts 23:11 – “…The Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’”
That’s really when it had been decided that they should sail for Italy. That’s why, regardless of what was happening to him; regardless of what people were trying to do to him; regardless of what his future looked like, Paul was always able to be say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)
Since the day he first met Jesus, Paul was always content. He always had peace. He was never afraid because he knew his God caused all things to work together for his good and God’s purpose and glory.
Acts 27: 2 – “We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.”
There’s quite a diverse mixture of people on board that little ship. In addition to Paul, there’s the captain and the crew. They’re the professionals, the experts; the problem solvers; the ones you put your trust in to get you safely where you want to go.
Then there were the Roman Soldiers; the authorities, the ones in charge; the ones making the rules; the ones with all the power. Then there were the other prisoners; the real criminals, murderers, thieves; truly dangerous people.
Several of Paul’s friends, other believers were on that ship with him; friends like Aristarchus the Macedonian and Luke who was writing all this down. That ship was pretty typical of the kind of world we’re living in today; a world where Christians are in the minority and non-Christians make the rules.
We have our professionals, our experts; the ones we elect or hire to solve all the world’s problems. There are people in power making decisions that shape the direction and the future of this planet. We have our share of “bad people,” dangerous criminals.
But most people in the world today believe that because they’re not dangerous criminals, they’re not bad people. And since they’re not bad people, they must be good people and they’d just like to be left alone. You live your life and let me live mine. We all live in the same little world and whatever happens to one of us affects all of us.
Acts 27:3 – “The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs.”
How strange is that? Julius, the Roman Commander, “in kindness,” releases one of his prisoners to let him spend some time with his friends so they could “provide for his needs.” He was taking a big risk doing something like that. If Paul had escaped, it would have cost Julius his life. Sometimes non-Christians can be kinder and more compassionate than some of us who call ourselves “Christians.”
But Paul was no ordinary prisoner. The Commander could see he was different. For some reason, Julius believed he could trust Paul. He was so sure Paul wouldn’t try to escape, he released him to see his friends.
Acts 27: 4-8 – “From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us….we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind would not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete…We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens.”
This trip is quickly turning out to be a lot more difficult and a lot more stressful than anyone expected it to be because of the surprisingly rough seas with its high waves and strong winds. There was a growing sense of uneasiness on that ship, but no one seemed worried because the experts were in charge. They’d been through this many times before. They’ve got everything under control. They know what they’re doing. Everybody managed to live in ignorant bliss until things went from difficult to dangerous.
Acts 29:9a – “Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Feast.” (Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. September)
These might be problems the problem-solvers can’t solve Maybe the experts don’t know what they’re doing this time. Lord willing, we’ll pick this up from here next time.