On the Island of Malta
1When we came ashore, we learned that the island was called Malta. 2The local people were very friendly, and they welcomed us by building a fire, because it was rainy and cold.
3After Paul had gathered some wood and had put it on the fire, the heat caused a snake to crawl out, and it bit him on the hand. 4When the local people saw the snake hanging from Paul's hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer! He didn't drown in the sea, but the goddess of justice will kill him anyway.”
5Paul shook the snake off into the fire and wasn't harmed. 6The people kept thinking that Paul would either swell up or suddenly drop dead. They watched him for a long time, and when nothing happened to him, they changed their minds and said, “This man is a god.”
7The governor of the island was named Publius, and he owned some of the land around there. Publius was very friendly and welcomed us into his home for three days. 8His father was in bed, sick with fever and stomach trouble, and Paul went to visit him. Paul healed the man by praying and placing his hands on him.
9After this happened, everyone on the island brought their sick people to Paul, and they were all healed. 10The people were very respectful to us, and when we sailed, they gave us everything we needed.
From Malta to Rome
11Three months later we sailed in a ship that had been docked at Malta for the winter. The ship was from Alexandria in Egypt and was known as “The Twin Gods.” 12We arrived in Syracuse and stayed for three days. 13From there we sailed to Rhegium. The next day a south wind began to blow, and two days later we arrived in Puteoli. 14There we found some of the Lord's followers, who begged us to stay with them. A week later we left for the city of Rome.
15Some of the followers in Rome heard about us and came to meet us at the Market of Appius and at the Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and was encouraged.
Paul in Rome
16We arrived in Rome, and Paul was allowed to live in a house by himself with a soldier to guard him.
There was little time for Paul to catch his breath. No doubt exhausted after having swum or paddled ashore through the pounding surf (vv.43-44), he immediately assisted in gathering wood for a fire (vv.2-3). Here’s a cold wet old man (about 60 years old) whose first thought in the midst of a traumatic event isn’t to look out for himself, but to help others.
While feeding the fire with brushwood a snake slithers out of the bundle of sticks and bites him on his hand (vv.3-4). The islanders immediately jump to the conclusion that he’s a murderer and was being poisoned by Dikē, the Greek goddess of justice and moral order. But after shaking the viper into the fire Paul suffers no ill effects from the bite, so the fickle islanders change their minds and say he’s a god (vv.5-6). But, as we know, Paul wasn’t a god – he’d been protected by God.
God sustains us and supplies all we need. Publius, the chief official of Mata, lived nearby and welcomed Paul, Luke and Aristarcus (maybe others as well) into his home (v.7). God is no-one’s debtor, so He empowered Paul to first heal Publius’ father (who maybe had a lingering fever caused by a micro-organism in the milk of Maltese goats) and then to heal the friends and relatives of the islanders who’d helped them when they struggled ashore (vv.8-9). Most people respond warmly to kindness. Little wonder that the people showed their gratitude and gave Paul and his friends everything they needed (v.10).
After another journey by ship (vv.11-13), a brief visit with some fellow Christians (v.14), and a 65km walk on the Apian Way, they “arrived in Rome” (v.16). Imagine Paul’s joy. He’d longed to see the Roman Christians for many years (Romans 1:10-13) and now, after being a prisoner for more than two years, he finally reaches his destination.
Lord, your unfailing love is seen in the way you sustain us and supply all our needs. Thank you for redeeming us – for delivering us from distress and leading us by a straight way (Psalm 107:6-7). Amen.