Acts 27 is a magnificent sea story (and it stands in a good tradition of Greek literature), but it is far more than just a sea story. The setting and the event push you to trust God’s gracious gift of life.
God graciously spares lives. God’s protection goes with the one proclaiming his Word. This is not just a good sea story, though it is that, recorded by one who was an experience traveler though not a professional sailor, nor is it simply an account of Paul’s heroics, though his calm advice under pressure was instrumental in saving the lives of all on board. Rather, Luke’s interest is in Paul as the bearer of the good news, journeying towards the capital of the world empire. The howling, hope-sapping storm, the Euraquilo or northeaster, could have been the end of the apostolic mission, much to Satan’s delight, but God is not about to let his Word or his messenger perish in this storm. Luke’s account reminds one of Homer’s classic description of a storm in Book 5 of The Odyssey, but more likely Luke, and the Holy Spirit who inspired him, want you to think in biblical terms focusing on the storms of the Book of Psalms, which reveal the power of the true God, and on the storm in Jonah 1. There God hurled a storm upon the sea to drive a reluctant prophet back to his preaching. Here the storm hinders the willing apostle and threatens the progress of the gospel to the political center of the empire, but God’s protection confirms his care of his servant.
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Imagine the pomp and circumstance that Luke describes as royalty and officials enter the audience room for, not a trial, but a hearing concerning a prisoner. The the prisoner enters in chains. His “defense,” however, is an evangelistic message calling his royal hearers to turn from darkness to light, Acts 26:22–23.
Come to the light of the promised Messiah. Christ fulfills the Old Testament prophecies of light. Paul, who has been held in prison for more than two years, has appealed to Caesar. The new governor, Festus, takes advantage of a royal visit from Herod Agrippa II. It is also a family affair. This Herod is the son of Herod Agrippa I, who had killed James and arrested Peter. Agrippa’s grand-uncle, Herod Antipas, had executed John the Baptist, and his great grandfather was Herod the Great, who had murdered the children of Bethlehem. Not only was Drusilla, the wife of former governor Felix, Herod Agrippa’s sister, his consort, Bernice was also his sister. Despite the sordid personal lives of the rich and famous, Paul begins his speech with an expression of gratitude that Agrippa is familiar with the Jewish customs and with the Scriptures. Once more Paul tells the story of his conversion, focusing not only on the light he saw on the Damascus road, but also on the light that would shine from Christ, particularly through Paul. He emphasizes the continuity between his apostolic message and the writings of the prophets. The Messiah would be the light, not just for Israel, but for the Gentiles as well, Isaiah 42:6; 49:6.
Continue reading “Proclaim Light!”