The Apostle Paul Sets Sail For Rome
Acts chapter 27, verses 1-12,
by Minister Paul J. Bern
Last week as we put the finishing touches on our knowledge of Acts chapter 26 and what it all actually means, we saw the apostle Paul had concluded his testimony to King Agrippa in the presence of governor Festus and various officials and dignitaries of their time. About his testimony Festus had said to Agrippa, “This man could have been set free had he not appealed to Caesar” (see verse 32 of Acts chapter 26). But Paul, who was on a mission from Almighty God, undertook that journey knowing it could be a life-ending decision. But first, he must sail to Rome on a perilous journey by ship, and sailing ships were far more rudimentary than they are today. And so on that point, let’s all go to verse 1 of Acts 27.
“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.” (Acts 27, verses 1-8)
In verse 2, Adramyttium was originally located at the head of the Gulf of Adramyttium, on the River Caicus in the Plain of Thebe, approximately 4 kilometers west of the modern town of Burhaniye, but later moved 13 kilometers northeast to its current location and became known as Edremit. Also in verse 2, (Acts 20:4) “They are designated “men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel.” We learn later that Aristarchus was a native of Thessalonica (Acts 27: 2). They were probably seized to extract from them information about their leader Paul, but when they could tell nothing, and since they were Greeks, nothing further was done to them. But both men would be executed by the Romans in their not-too-distant futures.
“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.” Right here in this verse is ample proof that Paul posed no threat whatsoever to his Roman captors. In fact, he readily gained their trust once they realized that Paul’s faith was genuine and authentic. Paul reinforced the trust he had earned when he came back to the ship on schedule. In verse 5, “ 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.” All these seaports were located along the southern coast of modern-day Turkey.
Verses 7 and 8 further trace the directions of Paul’s Roman captors as they ultimately ended up in the seaport of Fair Havens. By now everyone realizes that traveling long distances in the 1st century AD was difficult even on a good day. On a bad day, trying to sail a boat was a pointless excersize in futility. “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.” Fair Havens is on the south side (“leeward”) of the island nation of Crete in the central part of the Mediterranean sea. And now let’s move on to part 2 of this week’s study series.
“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.” [Acts 27, verses 9-12]
For any persons who weren’t aware, Paul the apostle and the others with him were all Jews who had been converted to Christianity, so the Day of Atonement had deep meaning and was of major significance for each of them. All except for the Roman guards, who evidently cared nothing about the convictions of Paul, Luke and company. So much so that the ship’s captain and her owner convinced Julius the centurion to set sail ASAP. And, that meant setting sail on the morning of the first day of the Jewish feast of Yom Kippur, just so Julius and his fellow soldiers could show off their sailing skills and their disdain for Christianity, not to mention their total disrespect for our risen Lord and Savior. But this is what happened in verses 9, 10 and 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….” Can’t stay where they were, but couldn’t leave either? It looks like some additional planning in this case would have been beneficial for everyone concerned. But that was not to be. And so the apostles Paul and Luke, together with Aristarchus of Thessalonica who had been a member of the church at Thessalonica that the apostle Paul had founded, set sail for Rome. Will they make it despite setting sail at an inopportune time from a weather standpoint? At this juncture, there’s no way to tell. But if you will only return next week at this time for the next lesson in this series, everything will become clear to you. So, God willing, I will see you then.