Acts chapter 27

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What does Acts chapter 27 mean?

Paul is finally on his way to Rome. He has wanted to go for some time (Romans 1:11), but a short visit to Jerusalem to check in with the apostles turned into a two-year house arrest in Caesarea Maritima. He was falsely accused by the Sanhedrin. Roman governors wouldn't release him—because that would irritate the Jewish leaders—but wouldn't hand him over to the council because of his Roman citizenship. Ultimately, Paul appealed his case to Caesar. The text of the chapter alternates between Luke's detailed description of the sea voyage and Paul encouraging the people on board to make choices that won't kill them all.

Acts 27:1–8 records the calm part of this trip. Luke and Aristarchus have rejoined Paul. Paul, along with other prisoners, is under the watchful eye of Julius, a centurion. Luke records their voyage. They sail north from Caesarea to Sidon where Julius allows Paul to visit friends. From Sidon, they curve around the northeast isthmus of Cyprus, and land in Myra on the southern coast of modern-day Turkey. Julius finds a grain ship in Myra that is sailing for Rome. On board, the prisoners and companions sail west, then south, and skim the southern coast of Crete until they reach the port of Fair Havens.

In Acts 27:9–12, Paul tries to warn Julius to stop for the winter. Paul is an experienced sea traveler: he's already been shipwrecked three times and left adrift at sea (2 Corinthians 11:25). He knows if they launch it will not go well for them. Unfortunately, Fair Havens is not a safe place for a ship to winter, and the ship's captain and pilot convince Julius to go on a little to Phoenix which has two large, sheltered ports.

Acts 27:13–20 records the beginning of bad weather. Not only do the winds prevent the ship from landing at Phoenix, but they push it out into open water. The sailors haul up the lifeboat before it floods and sinks and use ropes to support the ship's hull. The winds drive the ship southwest toward an expanse of dangerous sandbars north of Libya. If they run aground they will be too far from shore to swim. Attempting to raise the ship above the hazards, the crew throws out much of the cargo. They toss equipment into the water to try to slow the ship down. Both the crew and the passengers begin to lose hope.

Acts 27:21–26 returns the focus to Paul. He delivers a relatively gentle "I told you so," but reassures them. Although the ship will be destroyed and the cargo lost, no one will die. He bases this on a promise given by an angel. Paul's divine promise is that he will face Caesar and that God will spare those who sail with him.

In Acts 27:27–32, the sailors realize they are near land. It's too dark to see, so they lower the aft anchors to keep the ship from running into any rocks. They then quietly lower the lifeboat into the water, planning to abandon the passengers. Paul notices and warns the centurion. The soldiers cut the ropes, and the lifeboat floats away.

Paul takes control again in Acts 27:33–38. No one has eaten in fourteen days, and he encourages them to build up their strength. He takes the bread, gives thanks to God, breaks it, and passes it among the crew and passengers. Once everyone has eaten, they throw the remaining wheat overboard.

In Acts 27:39–44, the sailors find a sandy beach and try to reach it, but the ship gets stuck on a reef a ways from the shore. The soldiers plan to kill the prisoners to make sure none escape, but the centurion stops them. Those who can swim, do so; those who don't, find planks from the quickly deteriorating ship and ride the waves to the shore.

In Acts 28, the bedraggled survivors learn they are on the island of Malta, just south of Sicily. While collecting firewood, Paul is bit by an extremely venomous serpent but survives. The locals wonder if he's a god. Paul heals the father of the local leader, as well as many others, and the islanders treat Paul and his companions well. After three months, they catch another ship and land southeast of Rome. From there, they walk. Paul spends two years in Rome under house arrest where he learns Jewish leaders in Rome are just as stubborn as any others he has met. He also writes the "prison epistles": Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Luke gives few details about Paul's stay in Rome and the book ends with Paul's release.
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