In Acts Chapter 26, Paul defends himself before King Agrippa and recounts his own conversion. In doing so, he shares his faith with King Agrippa, Bernice, and Festus. After testifying before them, we read at the end of Ch. 26:
When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them; and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, “This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains.” Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” ~Acts 26:30-32
Agrippa has decided that there is nothing left that can be done for Paul than to send him on to Rome for trial. This is where we find ourselves in Chapter 27:
Vs 1-3 And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment. So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us. And the next day we landed at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care.
Do Unto Others
Many stories are told of wartime enemies helping their foes rather than killing them. CNN recently carried a story about a WWII German fighter pilot who chose to escort an American bomber to safety instead of gunning his plane down.
Here in Julius, we see a beautiful act of mercy that reminds me of how David spared King Saul’s life at least twice – once in 1 Samuel 26 and also earlier in Chapter 24 where we see Saul speaking to David:
Then he said to David: “You are more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with good, whereas I have rewarded you with evil. And you have shown this day how you have dealt well with me; for when the Lord delivered me into your hand, you did not kill me. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him get away safely? Therefore may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.
~1 Samuel 24:17-19
Remember who gave us the ultimate example of this? As He hung up on the cross dying, Jesus asked God to forgive those who had Him executed:
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. ~Luke 23:33-34
During Jesus’ time in His earthly ministry, He showed us and taught us the same. The Jewish leaders were constantly testing Him to see if they could cause Him to blaspheme so they could accuse Him. But instead of responding to them in anger or with attitude he was sincere in trying to teach them the Word of God.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? ~Matthew 5:43-47
There have been many times in my own life when I just couldn’t get along with someone else – whether because I was being ornery or they were. When we are kind and gracious to those around us, our pastor calls this being “getalongable”. 🙂 Sometimes I’m the guy that is definitely not “getalongable”. But other times it truly is the other person that has a problem. Regardless of whose fault it is, Jesus teaches us to love them and to show them love. Pray for them and bless them in ways they would never expect! Jesus tells us anybody can love someone who loves them first. “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” He wants us to love those folks that are mean/nasty/whiny/grouchy, or the co-worker that doesn’t like people, or the family member that gossips about you, or that bully at school, or that person that is simply irritating to you.
I knew a bully in grade school, before I’d become a Christian, and I never responded to him well. When he was nasty to me, I was nasty right back. It never ever helped my situation, as a matter of fact I was beat up more than once because of my smart mouth. However, as I’ve grown in The Lord and He has taught me His Word, I’ve learned how to reply with a smile and a word of grace. I still fail, but not like I did as a kid.
As we read through this chapter, we will see more kindness and mercy from Julius toward Paul. He is treating Paul as he himself would want to be treated. This is known as “The Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It’s something that Jesus taught us to do:
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. ~Matthew 7:12
Vs 4-6 When we had put to sea from there, we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board.
They put Paul and his traveling companions on a Greek ship (Alexandrian) that would take him to Rome (Italy).
Vs 7-10 When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone. Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.”
There are many times in our lives when God is speaking directly to us. At other times, God speaks to us through the counsel of others. Here we see an occasion when God was speaking to this group through the Apostle Paul. It is good to seek counsel and listen to the advice of fellow believers. God actually instructs us to do that.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
God also instructs us to look for counsel in the Bible:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
~2 Timothy 3:16
But then God also warns us not to look for or follow the counsel of unbelievers:
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
Headed Toward Disaster
Paul is a man who is obviously a chosen man of God. He has escaped numerous attempts on his life, he has preached to kings and governors, he has healed others of sickness and death. Yet when Paul says “I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives,” they don’t listen to his counsel, and they decide to sail on to disaster.
Vs 11-20 Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there.
When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven. And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. On the third day we threw the ship’s tackle overboard with our own hands. Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.
As they set sail toward a port called Phoenix, it seemed at first that the winds were in their favor as “the south wind blew softly” Aw, doesn’t that sound nice?
“But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose” – whoa where did that big storm come from? They’ve run into some real trouble here! The storm is now carrying them wherever it wants to, they are no longer in control of the ship. It seems at this point, the best thing to do might be to lighten the load of the ship, so on Day 3 they “threw the ship’s tackle overboard” and yet still the storm rages on and it seems there is no escape for them. “Neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.” Everyone on board thought they were going to die. I’m sure by now they remember Paul’s words of wisdom that if they sail this trip would end disastrously.
I told you so!
Vs 21-26 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island.”
So Paul utters those oft-spoke words of siblings and parents: “I told you this would happen”. But Paul also offers them the assurance that an angel of The Lord had visited him during the night to let him know that he was still right in God’s will, and that God would have him before Caesar. This reminds me of another occasion when an angel of The Lord appeared with a message of “do not fear” and to discuss God’s will:
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
God doesn’t want us to fear our past, our present, or our future. If we are believers, our past is forgiven and washed away by the blood of Christ. In the present moment, even though we have something big and powerful in front of us (like an angel!), God doesn’t want us to be afraid. He wants us to rely on Him and rest in Him. For our future, God wants us to know we can trust Him, and that He cares for us so much.
Vs 27-38 Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land. And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms. Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come. And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off.
And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.” And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves. And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship. So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.
So they had come near land, the sailors were getting ready to sneak off the ship, and it still looks like the ship won’t make it and they may all die. In the middle of this terror, right before morning, Paul suggests that they all eat some breakfast! I love that Paul is so certain that God will deliver them, he wants to make sure everyone has enough to eat before they go ashore. As they prepare for breakfast, Paul takes the time to thank God for the food and ask the blessing for the meal. What a calming presence in the middle of the storm! I love to see Christians who are so faithful to God that in the center of a crisis they rest in the knowledge of God’s providence. That is Paul right now.
Vs 39-44 When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible. And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves. And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.
The centurion, Julius, is once again compassionate and shows mercy upon Paul by protecting him from the other soldiers. Perhaps Julius doesn’t realize that Almighty God is using him and has been using him to protect Paul’s life. Maybe Julius is simply doing what he thinks his heart is telling him he should do. But I love to see God’s incredible provision for Paul, and I can see it daily in our own lives when I look for it.