January 25th, 2007
It’s sometimes very hard to explain why things happen to us the way they do. It often feels as if God could have done things much better. Why do we encounter trouble, resistance, pain and loss? Why do things sometimes just get too hard? Why doesn’t God rescue us miraculously a bit more often? I don’t pretend to know the answers to these questions, but I do know that each obstacle you encounter in life, each incident, whether it is a tragedy or triumph, is an opportunity for you to grow closer to God or further away from him. In Paul’s case, he used the months spent on the island as an opportunity to get closer to God.
The Acts of the Apostles — Chapter 28
28:1 When we had escaped, they discovered that the island was called Malta. 28:2 The locals were unusually kind to us. Because it was raining and cold, they built a fire to welcome us all. 28:3 As Paul was gathering a bundle of sticks to place on the fire, a snake came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 28:4 When the locals saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer. Although he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed to live.” 28:5 But he shook off the snake into the fire, and was unharmed. 28:6 They expected that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead, but when they watched for a long time and saw nothing bad happen to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
28:7 Nearby were lands belonging to the chief man of the island named Publius, who welcomed us and kindly accommodated us for three days. 28:8 Publius’s father was sick, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went into his room, prayed, placed his hands on him, and healed him. 28:9 When this happened, the other people on the island who had diseases came and were cured. 28:10 They showed us a lot of respect, and when we sailed they supplied the things that we needed.
28:11 After three months, we set sail in an Alexandrian ship which had stayed on the island over winter. It had Castor and Pollux as its figurehead. 28:12 We landed at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 28:13 From there we circled around and arrived at Rhegium. A southerly wind arose after one day, and on the second day we arrived at Puteoli, 28:14 where we found believers, who invited us to stay with them for seven days. So we came to Rome. 28:15 From there the brothers, when they heard about us, came as far as The Market of Appius and The Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and was encouraged. 28:16 When we entered Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard, but Paul was allowed to stay by himself with a soldier who guarded him.
28:17 Three days later Paul called together the leaders of the local Jewish people. When they had come together, he said to them, “Brothers, although I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans, 28:18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to set me free, because there was no reason for condemning me to death. 28:19 But when the Jews spoke against it, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I held anything against my people. 28:20 This is why I wanted to see you and to speak with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am restrained with this chain.”
28:21 They told him, “We have not received any letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers have come here to say anything against you. 28:22 But we want to hear what you think. We know that people everywhere are speaking against this sect.”
28:23 On an appointed day, numerous people came to visit Paul. From morning until evening he explained to them, telling them about the Kingdom of God, and persuading them about Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. 28:24 Some believed what he said, and some did not believe. 28:25 They disagreed amongst themselves, and left after Paul had said, “The Holy Spirit correctly predicted through the prophet Isaiah’s words to your ancestors, 28:26 ‘Go to this people, and say, while listening, you will hear but will by no means understand. While looking, you will see but will by no means perceive. 28:27 This people’s heart has become hardened, their ears are almost deaf, and they have closed their eyes, in case they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and turn again for me to heal them.’ 28:28 You need to understand that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen.”
28:29 When he had said this, the Jews left, while continuing a vigorous discussion amongst themselves. 28:30 Paul stayed two full years in his own rented house, and welcomed everyone who came to visit him, 28:31 preaching the Kingdom of God, and teaching boldly about the Lord Jesus Christ, without any interference.