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>