1Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. 2The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us and warm us.
3As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, fastened itself onto his hand. 4The people of the island saw it hanging there and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” 5But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. 6The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.
7Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us courteously and fed us for three days. 8As it happened, Publius’s father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. 9Then all the other sick people on the island came and were cured. 10As a result we were showered with honors, and when the time came to sail, people put on board all sorts of things we would need for the trip.
11It was three months after the shipwreck that we set sail on another ship that had wintered at the island–an Alexandrian ship with the twin gods as its figurehead. 12Our first stop was Syracuse, where we stayed three days. 13From there we sailed across to Rhegium. A day later a south wind began blowing, so the following day we sailed up the coast to Puteoli. 14There we found some believers, who invited us to stay with them seven days. And so we came to Rome.
15The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
16When we arrived in Rome, Paul was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier.
17Three days after Paul’s arrival, he called together the local Jewish leaders. He said to them, “Brothers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Roman government, even though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors. 18The Romans tried me and wanted to release me, for they found no cause for the death sentence. 19But when the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no desire to press charges against my own people. 20I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could tell you that I am bound with this chain because I believe that the hope of Israel–the Messiah–has already come.”
21They replied, “We have heard nothing against you. We have had no letters from Judea or reports from anyone who has arrived here. 22But we want to hear what you believe, for the only thing we know about these Christians is that they are denounced everywhere.”
23So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul’s house. He told them about the Kingdom of God and taught them about Jesus from the Scriptures–from the five books of Moses and the books of the prophets. He began lecturing in the morning and went on into the evening. 24Some believed and some didn’t. 25But after they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul: “The Holy Spirit was right when he said to our ancestors through Isaiah the prophet,
26 `Go and say to my people,
You will hear my words,
but you will not understand;
you will see what I do,
but you will not perceive its meaning.
27 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes–
so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and let me heal them.’
28So I want you to realize that this salvation from God is also available to the Gentiles, and they will accept it.”
30For the next two years, Paul lived in his own rented house. He welcomed all who visited him, 31proclaiming the Kingdom of God with all boldness and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.
Points of Interest:
- ‘they changed their minds and decided he was a god.’—the locals are having a hard time getting a bead on Paul. At first they think that he’s so wicked that the fates can’t bear to see him survive a shipwreck, and thus send a poisonous snake to do him. When he survives the bite, they then decide that he’s so godly that even poison can’t touch him.
- ‘Then all the other sick people on the island came and were cured’–it turns out that this amazing healing power isn’t meant for Paul alone. Every sick person on the island gets to benefit.
- ‘The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us’—Paul is not the only person in the early church effective at spreading news about Jesus. Paul has friends to greet him when he arrives.
- ‘Three days after Paul’s arrival, he called together the local Jewish leaders.’—he’s under house arrest and can’t attend synagogue. Nonetheless, Paul finds a way to follow his custom of meeting with the local Jewish people first.
- ‘the only thing we know about these Christians is that they are denounced everywhere’–thankfully, Paul’s reputation as someone who spurns Jewish tradition hasn’t gotten to Rome. It puts Paul in the refreshing position of being able to build a bridge between the Jewish community and the Roman followers of Jesus.
- ‘For the hearts of these people are hardened’—Paul is quoting an Old Testament prophet predicting what Paul has now found to be true of many of his own people. Paul must have spoken these words reluctantly and solemnly. What a warning! To think that we can get to a place where our hearts are too hard to receive what God has for us.
- ‘this salvation from God is also available to the Gentiles’—the assumption of the day was that Jesus had died for the Jews to inherit the salvation promised by God. The great leap was to include the rest of the world in this good news. Paul spent his life honing and spreading that message. It’s tempting today to believe that God’s goodness is intended only for those cultures that have been traditionally Christian. Paul’s final word to us is that there are no boundaries to God’s goodness – cultural, political, religious or national. God is actively pursuing every person on earth!
Taking it home:
- Through you: Paul finished well. Despite harassments, opposition, conflict, and abandonment Paul continued to trust God and to push ahead with the mission God had given him. As we end the Leap of Faith, what will it mean for you to finish well not only in these six weeks but in life? What do you want Jesus to do through you? Ask God once again to sharpened and focus your mission in God for your life.
- Through your six: Pray for the condition of your six’s hearts. Pray that God would soften their hearts and make them receptive to whatever good God has for them.
- Through our church: As we pursue God’s dreams for us individually and corporately, pray that God would raise up more and more faithful followers of Jesus willing to give their lives to God’s purposes. Pray that they would do this out of a sense of God’s overwhelming goodness to them personally.