We’re coming to the close of my Community Bible Study class, and we’ve been in the book of Acts the past 29 weeks. It’s been an amazing adventure that starts out with the Holy Spirit and ends with Paul obeying the Holy Spirit while imprisoned in Rome.
The past week we had an occasion to “write a paragraph” describing Paul’s shipwreck in chapter 27. Well, writers usually are a bit more wordy, and I thought perhaps you’d enjoy what I shared with my class. I wrote in the guise of a Roman male prisoner aboard the ship carrying Paul.
CBS, Study of Acts
Lesson 29, Acts Chap 27
We were going to die.
I knew the others felt the same. How could we not? Chained together, being tossed back and forth in the bottom of a smelly boat, with no hope.
The Jew over there kept talking about his God, and how an angel was sent to him to assure him that no one would die. Bah! Angels and gods, we have them too, and they are powerless. Silly pieces of stone and wood…they afford no comfort when you are face to face with death.
I had to find out more about this Paul. A prisoner, but not as the others, for he was chained to his own private guard. I asked whet he had done…killed? Cheated? Raped? The answer came back that he was a religious prisoner, on trial because he followed a dead Nazarene, proclaiming him risen from the dead! There were not many among us who knew of this man. It sparked my curiosity.
At the height of the storm, Paul told us of a time when this Nazarene was also caught in a storm; He and his followers were out on the Galillee sea. Paul said he rebuked the storm, which was as bad as this and it calmed. How can this be?
Again, the dead Nazarene’s followers were on their boat—fisherman, they were—when caught up in a sudden storm. One, a big man Paul called Cephas, looked out from the boat and saw this man, Jesus, walking to them!
From that night, I listened to Paul, despite my doubts. When I was alone, as alone as I could be being chained together, I could think of nothing else but this man Jesus and the tales Paul told of Him. Was He really the Son of the God Paul worshipped? Was He the one who sent the angel to Paul?
The final night of our journey, Paul assured us we would survive., and that we should eat something. I was certain Paul was crazy, but I bowed my head when he prayed to his God, thanking Him for providing. There were almost 300 of us, and we all were able to eat. After, we were loosened to help lighten the ship’s load by tossing the remaining wheat into the sea.
In the morning, the vessel ran aground. I cursed Paul’s false claims; I heard the soldiers’ plans to kill us all as to save themselves. I would not go without a fight!
A centurion, sent along to guard Paul, thwarted their plot, in order that Paul would be delivered to his trail in front of Ceasar himself. This man, this small, balding, old man, was of such import that a Roman centurion risked his own life to save him. My view of Paul began to change, as did that of His God.
We were ordered to jump ship and swim to shore. I looked to Paul and he nodded, with a grin, and said, “Not one here will perish. I will see you on shore.” His confidence bolstered my own, and I dove into the cold waters with a renewed sense of survival…a hope that had faded long ago.
We all were saved. All of us. Paul went on to Rome. I heard Nero called for his head. I am sure that Paul went merrily to his demise, so strong was his faith in his Jesus. And I now understand, as I share that same faith and await my trial for my crimes. It may not be as strong as Paul’s, for I have not had the time or the teaching as he. But it is there, and I am certain that nothing ever again will come between me and the love that the God of the universe has for such as myself. A ragged, worn sinner. Thanks be to God for Paul’s witness of faith.