TRỞ THÀNH NGƯỜI HỮU DỤNG (2)
The voyage to Rome and shipwreck
PAUL SAILS FOR ROME
Paul is at last on his way to Rome—even though he is being taken there as a prisoner (27:1–44). Luke and Aristarchus sail with him, together with other prisoners. Some are on their way to death in the amphitheatre at Rome.
Luke keeps a diary of the journey. It is fresh in his mind, vivid and exciting—the most detailed record of a storm and shipwreck that we have from ancient times.
At first they sail from Caesarea to Sidon, and then north of Cyprus to Myra. This is only a coastal ferry, and they need to find another ship to take them on to Rome.
At Myra they transfer to a large grain-carrying vessel which is on its way from Alexandria to Rome. This can take up to 500 people. The wind is against them and progress is slow. The gentle breezes of summer are now giving way to the stiff north-westerly winds of autumn. The ship is blown far off course and has to take refuge at Fair Havens, on the south coast of Crete.
Paul is one of the most experienced travellers on-board. Luke has recorded eleven of his voyages, which total 3,500 miles at sea. Paul knows that they have lost time and fair weather. The Jewish Fast (the Day of Atonement) has come and gone, and it is now mid-October. They are late, and their voyage has become very dangerous.
Paul warns the centurion—a fair-minded man called Julius—that some lives will be lost if they continue the voyage. But his advice is ignored by the pilot and the owner of the vessel. They will risk the ship and the lives of its crew in their determination to deliver the cargo.
A soft south wind gives hope that they can move along the coast forty miles, to Phoenix. This will be a better harbour for the winter. But they are mistaken. A hurricane blows up which drives the ship out into open sea, where they are at the mercy of the storm. For two weeks they run before the gale, abandoning cargo and all spare equipment. They attempt to slow their runaway progress with a sea anchor, and pass a rope around the hull to hold the vessel together. In the end, they are forced to give up in despair.
But then Paul speaks. He tells the sailors they will all survive. God has promised Paul that he will live to stand trial in Rome. For his sake, the crew and prisoners are safe. From now on, although he is merely one of the prisoners, Paul is the effective commander of the ship.
About midnight, they sense they are approaching an island. Later they will discover this is Malta. Some of the sailors try to escape in the lifeboat, but Paul insists that they all stay together. Towards dawn, he encourages everyone to have something to eat—and leads by example in saying grace and breaking bread.
At first light they see a cove with a beach. They steer towards it, but run aground on a sandbar. The ship begins to break up. The soldiers want to kill the prisoners to prevent them escaping, but the centurion forbids it. He wants to save Paul’s life. By swimming, or clinging to planks of wood, everyone comes safely to shore. Today the place is called St Paul’s Bay.
ASHORE ON MALTA
The survivors of the wreck are given a friendly welcome by the islanders (28:1–10). As Paul helps to build a fire, he is attacked by a viper. He shakes the snake from his hand, but the natives think he must be a murderer whom the gods are punishing. When Paul doesn’t swell up or drop dead, they change their minds and believe he’s a god! Certainly God is protecting Paul from both shipwreck and snake.
The chief official of Malta invites some of the visitors to stay at his house, including Paul and Luke. Paul is able to heal several islanders of illness. Among them is their host’s father, who has a fever. There is a sickness known as ‘Malta fever’ which is caused by microbes in the milk of the local goats.