Read Acts 27
Paul Sails for Rome
1 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. 2 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.
3 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. 4 From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. 5 When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 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. 8 We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.
9 Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement. So Paul warned them,10 “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.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.
13 When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, 17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.
21 After they 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. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 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.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 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. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 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.31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.
33 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. 34 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.” 35 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. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board.38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.
39 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. 40 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. 41 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.
42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 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. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.
This next-to-last chapter reads like a script from a movie, full of all kinds of dramatic elements. We have a journey on a ship, a storm, we see the passengers experience the full range of human emotion, and then a shipwreck. A lot of action gets packed into this one chapter! Why did Luke include this story when he wrote the book of Acts? Why would the Holy Spirit preserve this passage forever? This story is a powerful account of God’s hand and God’s protection on Paul and those aboard the ship with him.
Ever since the day that Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, things have been difficult for Paul. But Paul’s faith never wavers. This story on the ship is no different. While everyone else around him is panicked, Paul remains calm. Luke tells us the storm was violent. In verse 20 he even goes as far as to say, “We finally gave up all hope of being saved” (himself included!). But then, Paul rallies everyone together and tells them they’re going to be okay. He says, “Keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.” Paul trusts that God will deliver him as He’s promised–in the same way God has delivered him time and time again throughout his ministry.
While we may never find ourselves in the middle of a hurricane on a ship being transported from one prison to another, there is a lot we can learn from Paul’s example in this story. In the midst of chaos, everyone around him is looking for answers and Paul is the calmest one in the room (or in this case, on the ship). He’s able to do that because of the faith that he has in the One who controls the seas. Paul knows what the outcome is going to be. He knows that God has given him a mission and, as long as he has breath in his lungs, God isn’t done using him yet.
All around us, people are looking for answers. They feel hopeless. But we know how this story ends. We can trust that God has His hands on His people as He always has. Because of that, we can be the calmest people in the room and we can show the same faith that Paul showed in the midst of the chaos all around him.
What sticks out to you the most about Paul’s actions and words in this chapter? Why?
Think about all of the experiences we have read about Paul’s life and ministry up to this point. Which ones stand out to you the most? Where does this one rank in terms of Paul’s displays of faith in the midst of trial?
Where can you be the calm person in the middle of chaos? Where can you show others your faith and confidence in God’s sovereignty?
Did You Know?
Sir William Ramsay, a Scottish archaeologist, set out in the 1880s to travel to the places Luke mentioned on Paul’s journeys throughout Asia Minor in an effort to disprove Christianity and the parts of the Bible he thought to be made up. After traveling that same route, including the route of this ship, Ramsay was so convinced of Luke’s accuracy and detailed writing that he became a believer and spent the rest of his life writing in defense of the New Testament (Acts, in particular).