Acts 27: 1 – 12 Paul sails for Rome
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.
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. 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 Day of Atonement. 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 south-west and north-west.
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The journey by boat to Italy did not go well. The wind was against them most of the time, and was sufficient to delay them beyond the period when it was safe to voyage in the Eastern Mediterranean. On previous occasions when journeys were unexpectedly difficult, the assumption was that God was guiding the missionaries (Acts 16: 6 – 7). I wonder why this journey was seen differently?
Once they reached Fair Havens, Luke seems to think that the centurion should have listened to Paul’s advice as to sailing. But what did Paul know of sailing? He’d often travelled by boat on his journeys, true, but that’s no substitute for the lifetime of experience brought to the journey by the ship’s master and crew. The decision to attempt to reach Phoenix was pragmatic, because Fair Havens was unsuitable to winter in. If they had tried to winter there, where would the 276 souls on board the vessel have lived? Would the ship itself have been safe in the harbour? You can see why the owner and the pilot were able to sway Julius, the centurion.
This is where we see the reality of Paul’s status as a prisoner. Although he has contributed to the discussion about the journey, ultimately it’s not his decision. As a free man, he would have been able to make his own choice as to whether or not to continue his journey by boat. As a prisoner he went where he was taken.
The decision was made. The ship’s company held themselves ready for departure as soon as conditions seemed favourable.
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Thank you for the readiness of Paul and Luke to face danger and hardship to bring us the good news of Jesus.