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.[a] 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[b] 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[c] 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[d] deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet[e] 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.
THE DARKNESS WHERE GOD WAS
“Only when it’s dark enough can you see the stars.” This popular proverb was used by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his final speech before his death (“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”). King used the quote to explain how he had seen God working even in difficult and dire circumstances. And, after reading Acts 27:1-12, I think Paul would have to agree with the proverb’s way of thinking.
Paul has left Caesarea by ship, he is on his way to Rome to appear before Caesar, under the
supervision of a centurion named Julius. The journey can be a bit confusing with all of the ports and cities, but take a look at the map and trace Paul’s route. One thing that the text points out to us is that the weather treacherous. In fact, most people in those days avoided traveling in the winter season because the Mediterranean Sea was unpredictable and problematic.
Let us put ourself in the shoes of Paul for a moment. You have been unfairly arrested, held by the Romans (who can’t seem to find a reason to charge you with anything, but want to appease the bloodthirsty Jews), and now you’re put on a boat to travel to Rome. You have been wanting to go to Rome to share the gospel, but instead you’re on your way to appear to Caesar. The weather is terrible, and there’s even risk of the ship sinking. We read above Paul’s warning, “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.” No One seems to want to heed Paul’s caution. (Acts 27:9-11).
In the gloom of the situation, in the fear and despair that Paul might have wrestled with, that I would have likely wrestled with, he also saw the kindness of God. First, Paul did not have to journey alone; the pronoun “we” in Acts 27:1 suggests that Luke was allowed to go with Paul, along with Aristarchus. Paul had the opportunity to travel with fellow believers. Second, we even see that the Roman centurion showed him favor and treated him kindly, allowing him to visit other friends when they had stopped at the port in Sidon, and there his friends cared for him.
Paul saw God’s mercy, even in his trials. It seems like a contradiction, but in the darkness, we really can see the stars most clearly. In Exodus 20:21 there is a striking phrase which talks about the “thick darkness where God was.” In the times of trial and suffering, in the darkness of despair, God’s love and mercy and grace shines, and we can see His kindness and His goodness, even in the most desperate of times. I do not know where you are today in your life situation, but I am praying that, in the “ebbs and flows” of life, in the days of sunshine and in the days of storms, you would be able to look up, and look around and see the goodness of God.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.