As soon as arrangements were complete for our sailing to Italy, Paul and a few other prisoners were placed under the supervision of a centurion named Julius, a member of an elite guard.
We boarded a ship from Adramyttium that was bound for Ephesus and ports west. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, went with us.
The next day we put in at Sidon. Julius treated Paul most decently - let him get off the ship and enjoy the hospitality of his friends there.
Out to sea again, we sailed north under the protection of the northeast shore of Cyprus because winds out of the west were against us,
and then along the coast westward to the port of Myra.
There the centurion found an Egyptian ship headed for Italy and transferred us on board.
We ran into bad weather and found it impossible to stay on course. After much difficulty, we finally made it to the southern coast of the island of Crete
and docked at Good Harbor (appropriate name!).
By this time we had lost a lot of time. We had passed the autumn equinox, so it would be stormy weather from now on through the winter, too dangerous for sailing. Paul warned,
"I see only disaster ahead for cargo and ship - to say nothing of our lives! - if we put out to sea now."
The centurion set Paul's warning aside and let the ship captain and the shipowner talk him into trying for the next harbor.
But it was not the best harbor for staying the winter. Phoenix, a few miles further on, was more suitable.
When a gentle southerly breeze came up, they weighed anchor, thinking it would be smooth sailing.
But they were no sooner out to sea than a gale-force wind, the infamous nor'easter, struck.
They lost all control of the ship. It was a cork in the storm.
We came under the lee of the small island named Clauda, and managed to get a lifeboat ready and reef the sails.
But rocky shoals prevented us from getting close. We only managed to avoid them by throwing out drift anchors.
Next day, out on the high seas again and badly damaged now by the storm, we dumped the cargo overboard.
The third day the sailors lightened the ship further by throwing off all the tackle and provisions.
It had been many days since we had seen either sun or stars. Wind and waves were battering us unmercifully, and we lost all hope of rescue.
With our appetite for both food and life long gone, Paul took his place in our midst and said, "Friends, you really should have listened to me back in Crete. We could have avoided all this trouble and trial.
But there's no need to dwell on that now. From now on, things are looking up! I can assure you that there'll not be a single drowning among us, although I can't say as much for the ship - the ship itself is doomed.
"Last night God's angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve,
saying to me, 'Don't give up, Paul. You're going to stand before Caesar yet - and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.'
So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what he told me.
But we're going to shipwreck on some island or other."
On the fourteenth night, adrift somewhere on the Adriatic Sea, at about midnight the sailors sensed that we were approaching land.
Sounding, they measured a depth of one hundred twenty feet, and shortly after that ninety feet.
Afraid that we were about to run aground, they threw out four anchors and prayed for daylight.
Some of the sailors tried to jump ship. They let down the lifeboat, pretending they were going to set out more anchors from the bow.
Paul saw through their guise and told the centurion and his soldiers, "If these sailors don't stay with the ship, we're all going down."
So the soldiers cut the lines to the lifeboat and let it drift off.
With dawn about to break, Paul called everyone together and proposed breakfast: "This is the fourteenth day we've gone without food. None of us has felt like eating!
But I urge you to eat something now. You'll need strength for the rescue ahead. You're going to come out of this without even a scratch!"
He broke the bread, gave thanks to God, passed it around,
and they all ate heartily -
two hundred seventy-six of us, all told!
With the meal finished and everyone full, the ship was further lightened by dumping the grain overboard.
At daybreak, no one recognized the land - but then they did notice a bay with a nice beach. They decided to try to run the ship up on the beach.
They cut the anchors, loosed the tiller, raised the sail, and ran before the wind toward the beach.
But we didn't make it. Still far from shore, we hit a reef and the ship began to break up.
The soldiers decided to kill the prisoners so none could escape by swimming,
but the centurion, determined to save Paul, stopped them. He gave orders for anyone who could swim to dive in and go for it,
and for the rest to grab a plank. Everyone made it to shore safely.
Once everyone was accounted for and we realized we had all made it, we learned that we were on the island of Malta.
The natives went out of their way to be friendly to us. The day was rainy and cold and we were already soaked to the bone, but they built a huge bonfire and gathered us around it.
Paul pitched in and helped. He had gathered up a bundle of sticks, but when he put it on the fire, a venomous snake, roused from its torpor by the heat, struck his hand and held on.
Seeing the snake hanging from Paul's hand like that, the natives jumped to the conclusion that he was a murderer getting his just deserts.
Paul shook the snake off into the fire, none the worse for wear.
They kept expecting him to drop dead, but when it was obvious he wasn't going to, they jumped to the conclusion that he was a god!
The head man in that part of the island was Publius. He took us into his home as his guests, drying us out and putting us up in fine style for the next three days.
Publius's father was sick at the time, down with a high fever and dysentery. Paul went to the old man's room, and when he laid hands on him and prayed, the man was healed.
Word of the healing got around fast, and soon everyone on the island who was sick came and got healed.
We spent a wonderful three months on Malta. They treated us royally, took care of all our needs and outfitted us for the rest of the journey.
When an Egyptian ship that had wintered there in the harbor prepared to leave for Italy, we got on board. The ship had a carved Gemini for its figurehead: "the Heavenly Twins."
We put in at Syracuse for three days
and then went up the coast to Rhegium. Two days later, with the wind out of the south, we sailed into the Bay of Naples.
We found Christian friends there and stayed with them for a week.
Friends in Rome heard we were on the way and came out to meet us. One group got as far as Appian Court; another group met us at Three Taverns - emotion-packed meetings, as you can well imagine. Paul, brimming over with praise, led us in prayers of thanksgiving.
When we actually entered Rome, they let Paul live in his own private quarters with a soldier who had been assigned to guard him.
Three days later, Paul called the Jewish leaders together for a meeting at his house. He said, "The Jews in Jerusalem arrested me on trumped-up charges, and I was taken into custody by the Romans. I assure you that I did absolutely nothing against Jewish laws or Jewish customs.
After the Romans investigated the charges and found there was nothing to them, they wanted to set me free,
but the Jews objected so fiercely that I was forced to appeal to Caesar. I did this not to accuse them of any wrongdoing or to get our people in trouble with Rome. We've had enough trouble through the years that way.
I did it for Israel. I asked you to come and listen to me today to make it clear that I'm on Israel's side, not against her. I'm a hostage here for hope, not doom."
They said, "Nobody wrote warning us about you. And no one has shown up saying anything bad about you.
But we would like very much to hear more. The only thing we know about this Christian sect is that nobody seems to have anything good to say about it."
They agreed on a time. When the day arrived, they came back to his home with a number of their friends. Paul talked to them all day, from morning to evening, explaining everything involved in the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them all about Jesus by pointing out what Moses and the prophets had written about him.
Some of them were persuaded by what he said, but others refused to believe a word of it.
When the unbelievers got cantankerous and started bickering with each other, Paul interrupted: "I have just one more thing to say to you. The Holy Spirit sure knew what he was talking about when he addressed our ancestors through Isaiah the prophet:
Go to this people and tell them this: "You're going to listen with your ears, but you won't hear a word; You're going to stare with your eyes, but you won't see a thing.
These people are blockheads! They stick their fingers in their ears so they won't have to listen; They screw their eyes shut so they won't have to look, so they won't have to deal with me face-to-face and let me heal them."
"You've had your chance. The non-Jewish outsiders are next on the list. And believe me, they're going to receive it with open arms!"
Paul lived for two years in his rented house. He welcomed everyone who came to visit.
He urgently presented all matters of the kingdom of God. He explained everything about Jesus Christ. His door was always open. <\n>
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)