Acts 28

This devotional is written by Francesca Nicholls.

Acts 28

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Paul ashore on Malta
Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, 'This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.' 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

7 There was an estate near by that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. 8 His father was ill in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of those on the island who were ill came and were cured. 10 They honoured us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.

Paul's arrival at Rome
11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island - it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they travelled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.

Paul preaches at Rome under guard
17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: 'My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.'

21 They replied, 'We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.'

23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: 'The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

26 '"Go to this people and say,
'You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.'
27 For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts and turn,
and I would heal them."

28 'Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!'

30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ - with all boldness and without hindrance!


Listen to the reflection on Sound Cloud
The beginning of this chapter sees Paul in the island of Malta, surrounded by kind foreigners who show Paul hospitality. As they sit together around the fire a snake slithers from the fire, wrapping itself around Pauls hand and biting him. The Maltese people are fearful, does this symbolise Paul is a murderer? Has he been injured, will poison now slowly kill him? Instead it is written that he surprisingly had 'no ill effects.'

The symbol of the snake is repeated throughout the Bible. In genesis the snake persuades Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of knowledge, ultimately casting them out from the Garden of Eden. In Genesis chapter 3:15 God says to the serpent;

I will make you and the woman enemies to each other. Your descendants and her descendants will be enemies. One of her descendants will crush your head, and you will bite his heel.

Here, God foretells of the coming of his son, Jesus, who will crush Satan, defeating evil to free us from sin, and reconciling us with God the Father. Although Satan will bite his heel in the act of Jesus' crucifixion, the act has been completed - Jesus' work has been done. How does this link to acts 28? Well, we once again see the snake biting at its victim, this time it's Paul. But Paul has no ill effects nor injury from the bite of the serpent. Up until this point we know he has preached the gospel despite persecution and numerous hindrances. In his faith led walk, the power of evil has no place in his life: the venom of the snake has no I'll effect because Paul is walking in total conviction in the Holy Spirit. He is following wholeheartedly his divine mandate; his divine mission. Sounds rather grand, but a divine mission can be anything God call us to do.

Can you think of a time God us called you to do something, however simple, and he has removed all boundaries for your mission? I can recall one Eastbourne trip on the life course when I had just been fired from my job, and snow and blizzard had began to fall incredibly heavily across England. As we all know, even a slight change in weather is enough to shut down the whole of the Country but this time the weather really was severe. I wasn't sure whether to go, I thought to leave it - they'd understand why I couldn't go after being fired and anyway I couldn't make it even if I wanted to! But I felt that pull that can only be God telling me to get my stuff together and go. I got to Victoria and the cold snow managed to filter through the doors of the station leaving us all shivering as we watched dishearteningly at all the trains - cancelled cancelled cancelled. But one- my train to Eastbourne. Not only was it not cancelled, it was leaving on time. I couldn't believe it. But my journey was as seamleess as though no snow had fallen on the tracks. I was able to go to the life course and share the gospel.

In mark 16:18 Jesus says that those who follow Gods mandate or mission - will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.' Paul in Acts does the same. He does not fall Ill from the snake and, after his bite, proceeds to heal the sick and share the gospel.

So, what does this say for us as Christian's? The final word of acts is akolutos - meaning unhindered. As Christian's we are not immune to challenges, to the bite of the snake and; in fact, can find that we are greeted with more adversity when we walk boldly in our faith. But, as long as we follow Gods voice, preach the gospel with the same conviction as Paul, and continue to pray for others by healing the sick and following Jesus, the sting of the snake cannot harm us. If we walk alongside Jesus unhindered by the adversities and perils of the world we will never be forsaken; he will be with us every step of the way.

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