Acts 27


“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.” Acts 27:1-2

Paul Sails For Rome

As we have seen over and over again, God has been protecting Paul in order that he gets to Rome, so, Festus, along with Agrippa and Bernice, delivered the apostle and some other prisoners into the hands of a centurion named Julius. God wanted Paul in Rome, Paul wanted to be in Rome, and Agrippa sent him on his way to Rome.

Luke noted that Julius was of the Imperial Regiment which basically was a part of the Roman army that belonged to the emperor. And so the ship they boarded headed out to sea from Adramyttium, which is located in northwest Turkey.

It was never a part of God’s plan for mankind to be alone, Paul was not alone, Luke went along on this journey to Italy with him and Aristarchus, but more importantly, the lord was with him, Matthew 28:20.

“The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia.” Acts 27:3-5

The ship’s first stop was in Sidon, but because of the wind, they changed direction and stopped again at Myra in Lycia. Sometimes we have to stop and think about where we need to go and not where we want to go, John 8:31-32.

“There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast.” Acts 27:6-9

The ship Julius found was out of Alexandria and bound for Italy and so Julius, Paul and the rest of their company boarded that ship and it set sail against a late summer, north-westerly wind, for the port of Cnidus. But because the wind was so unfavourable the captain sailed along the southern shore of Crete.

And when they finally reached the port of Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea, a decision had to be made as to the course to be pursued.

All in all, things are going well and according to plan even though the wind is not in their favour but as we’re about to read the apostle Paul could see something different on the horizon, the forecast was not good.

“So Paul warned them, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbour was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbour in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.” Acts 27:10-12

Paul advised them not to attempt to go any further at such a dangerous time of year. Christians should be aware that the forecast for life will be dangerous at times, John 16:33.

Luke tells us that the wind didn’t let up all night, in fact, the violent seas continued the next day, so the sailors began to throw the cargo overboard.

Why was this a bad time of year for the ship to make this journey? Luke told us in verse 9 that ‘the Fast’, or ‘Day of Atonement’, was now over, and so, we can conclude it was around October 1.

And if we were the captain of a ship we should know that the Mediterranean Sea was not a safe place to be, especially for ancient vessels between September 15th until about March 15th.

Paul knew what time of the year it was and notice also that Paul’s concern was not just for the cargo but also the lives of those people on board the ship.

But even with this insight from Paul, Julius was inclined to listen more closely to the words of the ship’s pilot and the owner than to Paul.

And so the majority of those on board the ship were hoping to reach Phoenix because its harbour was easier to access.

The Storm

“When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the “northeaster,” swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard.” Acts 27:13-18

There’s nothing new about naming hurricane winds Luke tells us one called, the ‘Northeaster’ on its way towards the ship on which Paul is on board.

Luke tells us that this ship’s travels were far from ‘plain sailing’, in fact, if they were anything they were troubled seas. And when a soft, south wind began to blow they assumed they could easily reach Phoenix within a day.

I’m not a sailor but I know people who are and they tell me that when you’re out at sea the weather conditions can literally change in minutes. And that’s what happened here, all of a sudden a hurricane-force wind which they called the ‘northeaster’ blew stronger and stronger.

And this wind basically ended all hope of reaching a safe harbour as they had to let the ship be driven by the will of the wind. When the ship reached the shelter of an island called Cauda, the sailors, with the help of Luke and some other passengers, secured the lifeboat which would have been allowed to trail the ship because they planned to use it to go ashore at Phoenix.

And as panic stations set in, the sailors passed cables under the ship to strengthen it against the stormy sea and let the ship drift without the aid of sails for fear of being shipwrecked on the west of Cyrene, which was called Syrtis.

And the wind didn’t let up all night, in fact, the violent seas continued the next day, so the sailors began to throw the cargo overboard.

“On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss.” Acts 27:19-21

Luke tells us on the third day they threw the tackle overboard as well. Remember since they could not see the sun or stars, navigation was impossible.

When the forecast for life is not looking good and we feel like we’ve lost our way because of the dangers which lie ahead, don’t give up hope.

Don’t give up and cut yourself off from God and His people because in the eternal forecast of life, your suffering is only for a ‘little while,’ 1 Peter 1:6-8. And that hope of eternity with God is not a fairy dream, it’s real and alive, that’s why it’s called a living hope.

Luke tells Theophilus that Paul told them it was coming, but they didn’t listen and so Paul reminds them of his earlier warning. And the reason he reminds them is not to say, ‘I told you so’, but to give more credibility to what he was going to say next.

“But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” Acts 27:22-26

Paul said I know life’s forecast is tough right now and the ship is going to run aground on an island and be lost. But, God, through an angel, had promised to answer my prayers by saving every single life on board this ship.

When life’s forecast is for rough waters ahead we also need to remember that God will answer our prayers, Psalm 61:1-3 / James 1:6-8. Life is tough but don’t stop praying because there is always hope. Most people on board this ship saw no hope but Paul gave them hope.

The Shipwreck

“On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away.” Acts 27:27-32

On the fourteenth night, as they were tossed about in the Adriatic Sea, the sailors sensed they were coming close to land. And as all old ships did to find out how close to land they were, they took soundings. And when they realised they might hit some rocks, they cast four anchors off the stern and prayed for daylight.

But the sailors in an effort to save themselves let down the lifeboat and pretended to put out more anchors. But this didn’t go unnoticed, Paul saw what they were doing and warned Julius that he could not be saved without the sailors on board.

And now, finally, they begin to believe Paul’s words and the centurion commands his soldiers to cut away the ropes to the lifeboat and let it fall away.

Paul knew, even though the soldiers didn’t, that they had to cut away the ropes to the lifeboat and let it fall away so save their own lives. And so after meeting their spiritual needs by giving them hope, Paul turns his attention to their physical needs.

“Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “ For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food-you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board. When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.” Acts 27:33-38

Paul urged everyone on board the ship to eat since they hadn’t eaten for a while. And then reassures them again by telling them that not one hair on their heads would be harmed.

And so while they all watched, Paul took some bread, prayed and began to eat. And when all 276 onboard ate they were encouraged and cast the rest of the grain overboard.

When life’s forecast is not looking good, not only should we remember we’re not alone on our journey, not only should we remember we will have many stops in life, not only should we be aware that life can be dangerous at times.

Not only do we need to remember that God will answer our prayers but we also need to remember that God will look after our needs, Philippians 4:19.

“When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.” Acts 27:39-41

Luke continues to tell us about Paul’s adventures on this ship and they too after surviving the night have got some cords to cut. And just like people need to cut the cords with this world to get to heaven, these sailors have to cut themselves loose to get to a safer place.

As day broke, it became clear why Paul had said the sailors needed to stay on board. And although they did not recognise the land which stood nearby, they did know to guide the ship toward a bay with a beach that they could see.

And it’s then that they had to let go of the anchors, cut loose the rudders’ ropes and hoist the mainsail. And just before the ship reached shore, it stuck fast in a sandbar formed by the swirling waters caused by the merging of two seas.

The bow stuck firm but the stern began to break apart in the rough seas.

“The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.” Acts 27:42-44

The soldiers didn’t want to be held accountable for anyone who might escape, that’s why they wanted to kill them. The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners so that none could escape, but God working through the centurion Julius wanted to save Paul so he forbid this course of action.

Instead, anyone who could swim was told to make their way to shore while the others who couldn’t swim used boards and broken pieces of the ship to help them float ashore.

This is all about trust, Psalm 56:3. These sailors forgot what Paul had told them earlier, Acts 27:23-26, they had forgotten God’s promise because they didn’t trust God as Paul did.

If they listened and believed they wouldn’t have panicked like they are doing now. If they believed they would have realised that what Paul said to them earlier was true.

Paul told them that the ship would have to run aground and he told them just as God’s angel had promised, not a single life would be lost.

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