Read: Acts 28:1-15
After the shipwreck, as Paul prophesied, they all landed safely on the shores of Malta. The Islanders were kind-hearted people that were definitely not Jewish and unfamiliar with Christ. Paul probably thought this was an amazing opportunity! Luke provides a firsthand account of the miracles on Malta which serve to ignite Paul’s ministry there. After wintering on the island, they finally get to Rome where word of their arrival was anticipated by brothers and sisters of the faith. They were all received well.
The Roman centurion, Julius, must have been truly impressed by these events. Luke doesn’t mention him in his narrative directly, but Acts 28:16 indicates that Paul was allowed to live by himself with only a Roman guard. I’m confident that Paul was not trying to impress Julius, he was merely serving the Lord by his actions. Yet I am sure that Julius watched carefully and I hope that his observations led him to Christ. We certainly have no information that would support his conversion, so I’m not trying to add to scripture. It’s just important to appreciate that people will observe how we act, how we treat each other and draw their own conclusions about Christianity based on what they see. This is exactly what the Maltese people did.
Miracles on Malta
These were a kind people. They didn’t need doctrine or theology to help those who were in need. I imagine they say the ship as it approached the island, then the nearly 300 castaways as they found the beach simply trying to survive.
The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Acts 28:2
The island is situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. My guess is this wasn’t a completely unusual event. As I researched Paul’s voyage to Rome several commentators concluded that it was crazy to sail at this time of year. Even without The Weather Channel, they knew it was a bad time to have large cargo ships sailing about.
With the fire started, Paul gathered wood to help warm things up and was bitten by a viper which attached itself to his hand. The Islanders concluded Paul must have been truly evil.
This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live. Acts 28:4
What happened next would likely be responsible for changing the course of history for the island nation of Malta. Paul merely shook the snake off of his hand and went about his business. The Islanders decided that Paul must be a god!
Next up, the chief official of the island, Publius, welcomed Paul and his group to his home. Again we read about incredible generosity. I’m reminded that people can be incredibly loving without knowing Christ. Just because people aren’t following Jesus, they are not inherently bad, but they still need Jesus!
At some point Publius let Paul know that his father was ill.
His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. Acts 28:8
I wonder if Paul (or Luke) mentioned that Christ could heal the sick as they spoke? In my mind, Paul’s kindness matched Publius’ hospitality. He walked into his father’s room and felt compassion. I don’t envision any religious display or rituals, just simply caring for the sick. Paul likely spoke to him, then prayed and through the power of Christ healed him. Luke tells us that the rest of those who were sick came and Paul healed them all. I think that would cement my decision to follow Christ!
Paul’s 3-month visit to Malta had a profound impact on their history. According to The World Factbook (CIA), Malta is more than 90% Roman Catholic based on 2006 estimates. I’m pretty sure they have a fondness for Saint Paul.
Welcome to Rome
Once winter was over, they made arrangments to head to Rome. Luke provides details of the journey with specific references to the ports they made on their way.
There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. Acts 28:14
Somehow they knew Paul was arriving. This part of the story has a warm and happy ending.
At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. Acts 28:15
The journey to Rome has been a long and difficult road. Imprisoned for years and still in custody, Paul made the best of bad times and stayed focused on ministering to those he meets wherever he goes.
One of the phrases I really dislike, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it in my blog before, is the idea that “things could be worse.” Anytime trouble arrives at my front door whether, in the form of sickness, family, finances, friends, or rejection, someone has to say, “well, it could be worse.” *sigh* Let me avoid being guilty of suggesting we read Paul’s account and compare our current problems with his as a way of diminishing whatever trials we are going through today.
Paul did not seek to be arrested to preach in Rome. He certainly didn’t choose threats on his life or being shipwrecked. He simply chose to stay focused on spreading the Gospel. His reputation proceeded him. My prayer is that my own focus would be fixed on Christ, that every conversation would be lined with compassion, care, and concern. Our mission is clear and unique to each of us. Go and make disciples with the assurance that Jesus is with you!