The Word Made Fresh
1When we were safely on shore we learned that the island was called Malta. 2The natives there were very kind, and since it was cold and had begun to rain, they started a fire and welcomed all of us around it. 3Paul gathered an armload of brush and was putting it on the fire when a snake, driven out of the brush by the fire, wrapped itself around Paul’s hand. 4When the natives saw it hanging there, they said to each other, “This fellow must be a murderer. He escaped from the sea, but now he’s getting what he deserves.” 5But Paul wasn’t harmed. He shook the snake into the fire. 6They watched him, expecting him to swell up or drop dead, but after a long time nothing happened, and they changed their minds and started saying that he was a god.
7Nearby was the property of the leading man of the island whose name was Publius. He welcomed us and with hospitality kept us for three days. 8His father was confined to bed with fever and dysentery, and Paul looked in on him and prayed for him and put his hands on him, and he was healed. 9After that, the people of the island who were ill also came, and were healed. 10They treated us with great honor, and when we were ready to sail they loaded on board for us all the provisions we would need.
11We sailed on a ship that had wintered at the island. It was an Alexandrian vessel with Castor and Pollux, the twins, as its figurehead. 12We got to Syracuse, and stayed there for three days, 13then weighed anchor and sailed to Rhegium. A south wind began to blow the next day, and the day after that we arrived at Puteoli. 14We found kinsmen there, who invited us to stay with them. We stayed for a week, and then went on to Rome. 15When the believers there heard about us they came all the way to the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. Paul thanked God when he saw them, and was encouraged.
16In Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself with a soldier to guard him. 17Three days later he brought the local Jewish leaders together, and when they were assembled he said to them, “Brothers, I did nothing against our people or ancestors, yet they arrested me in Jerusalem and handed me over to the Romans. 18The Romans questioned me, and wanted to release me because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19But the Jews objected, and I had no option but to appeal to the emperor even though I had no charges to bring against my own people. 20This is why I have asked to meet with you and speak with you, because it is for Israel’s sake that I am bound with this chain.”
21They said, “We haven’t heard anything about you from Judea. None of our kinsmen who have come here have said anything against you. 22But we’ve heard people talking about this sect and have spoken against it, so we would like for you to tell us what you think.”
23They set a day and time to meet, and a great crowd came with them to his lodging. All day, morning to night, he told them his story and testified about the kingdom of God. He tried to convince them about Jesus, citing both the law of Moses and the prophets. 24Some of them believed what he said; some did not. 25They disagreed with one another, but as they were leaving Paul said, “The Holy Spirit told the truth when he spoke through the prophet Isaiah to your ancestors:
26‘Go to this people and tell them,
You will listen, yes, but you will never understand,
and you will look, but you will never see.
27For this people have dull hearts,
and closed eyes;
they can neither look with their eyes,
or listen with their ears,
or understand with their hearts,
and I cannot heal them.’
28“Know this, then, that God’s salvation has been offered to the Gentiles, and they will listen.” 29And when he had said this, the Jews left, loudly arguing among themselves.
30Paul lived there in his own house, which he had rented, and welcomed everyone who came to him, 31telling them about the kingdom of God and teaching them about the Lord Jesus Christ boldly and without hindrance.
1-6: The natives build a bonfire to warm the vagabonds in the rain and chill. Paul is characteristically helping them by gathering sticks and twigs for the fire when a snake wraps itself around his hand; note that the text nowhere says he was bitten by the snake. Paul simply shakes it off into the fire, but the natives are impressed that he is not harmed and wonder if he is mortal.
7-10: The islanders are friendly. The chief houses them for several days — the “us” in verse 7 probably not referring to all the shipwrecked passengers and crew but rather just to Paul and his companions. Paul heals the father of the chief and finds himself running a clinic for everybody else when the word gets out.
11-16: Alexandrian ships, by the way, were large vessels used in the grain trade between Rome and the port of Alexandria in Egypt. Powered by three masts of sails and many oars, they might be as long as 180 feet with a beam of 45 feet and a hold 40 feet deep. It was such a vessel that left them shipwrecked at Malta. Another one, though, was already wintering in Malta, and they were able to take passage on it. The people of Malta loaded them with provisions (mentioned at verse 10). The “Twin Brothers” figurehead was a carving representing Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of Rome. The ship takes them to Puteoli on the west coast of Italy by way of Syracuse on the island of Sicily. They stay with believers there for a week and then travel on to Rome. Rome is 150 miles north of Puteoli. They are met in Rome by other believers from the Italian towns of Three Taverns and Fountain of Appius, which gives Paul much encouragement. There, Paul is kept under house arrest with a personal guard who is responsible for him attending his trial when the time comes.
17-22: Paul takes the opportunity to meet with the Jewish leaders in Rome and try to smooth over relations with them. He may perhaps be a little disappointed that they don’t seem to have heard about him. They have, however, heard about the Way, and although what they have heard has tended to be negative, they are willing to hear what he has to say about it.
23-29: He meets with the Jews and has some success, but many of them disagree with him. He cannot resist using as a parting shot a quote from Isaiah 6:9, and declares to them that since they are unwilling to listen, the salvation God has granted through faith in Jesus will be available to the Gentiles.
30-31: The book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome for a couple of years teaching openly about Jesus. Various traditions have it either that he was finally tried and put to death in Rome, or that he was released and continued his travels.
Luke was the author of the book of Acts and the gospel that bears his name. His witness has inspired countless followers of Christ. You and I should consciously seek to inspire others to believe and follow. Faithful worship and prayer will show us the way God can use us.