Jesus’ Life: Chapter 23 – Paul’s Journey To Rome And Imprisonment
Paul’s ship had been tossed around on the Mediterranean Sea in the winter storms for more than two weeks. It finally succumbed to the forces of nature in pieces on the coast of Malta, approximately 575 miles west of its origin, Fair Havens in Crete.
Paul, the Roman soldiers, sailors and other passengers, standing possessionless in their drenched clothing under the cold wind and rain, must have looked pitiable to the Islanders. They received them with “extraordinary kindness,” lighting a fire and doing whatever they could to help. (Acts 28:2)
As Paul gathered a bundle of brushwood and put it on the fire, a viper trying to escape the heat “fastened itself on his hand”. (Acts 28:3) The Islanders expected the worst, his death. In their thinking, they considered him a repugnant prisoner! After all, the Roman soldiers were going to such trouble transporting him to Rome, he was probably a murderer – a crime that must not go unpunished! So, although he escaped death at sea, they thought, Divine justice was now being delivered!
Paul shook the viper into the fire and the people waited. He didn’t suddenly go into convulsions and die nor, as time passed, did he show any reaction, as they expected! The curious people then changed their views, Paul must be a god!
(What the people didn’t know was Jesus’ promise to his disciples. He said of them, “They will pick up snakes with their hands, and whatever poison they drink will not harm them; they will place their hands on the sick and they will be well”. (Mark 16:18))
The chief official of the area was named Publius and he welcomed the shipwrecked passengers over the following days. When Paul heard that his father was sick, suffering from fever and dysentery, he went to his home, prayed, laid hands on him and miraculously, he was healed by the power of God.
The news of Paul’s healings spread quickly and many other Islanders who were sick came to meet him; they were also miraculously healed. In return, the grateful islanders bestowed many gifts, perhaps clothing and other basic essentials, on Paul and the passengers.
The shipwrecked passengers were marooned on Malta for three months, not part of their plans but they were well cared for.
The Islanders also freely provided all necessary provisions for their onward voyage. (Acts 28:1-10)
I wonder, how many of the generous islanders converted to Christianity? St Luke doesn’t tell us in his writings but it’s highly unlikely Paul didn’t share Jesus’ Gospel with them!
We also don’t know the outcome of our actions today on other peoples long-term beliefs! But we pray they will be positive!
Lord Jesus, how great is your kindness and mercy; thank you for all that I am and that I possess; fill me with compassion for my neighbours and those in need; then Lord, maintain in me a humble spirit and a generous heart. Amen.
Prayer: Trust In Jesus (St Ignatius of Loyola)
O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.