Acts 27 – Shipwreck, Part I: In Which No One Goes Down with the Ship

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Today’s ChocolateEndangered Species 88% Cocoa Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassageActs 27

There’s an MC Frontalot/Baddd Spellah collaboration track titled “The Rhyme of the Nibelung,” translating Wagner’s opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung into hip-hop, as viewed through the eyes of an opera-illiterate spectator. Frontalot grouses confusedly through most of the opera, wondering who characters are, why they do what they do, and why there aren’t any hobbits, but finally gets into the action-packed finale. He exclaims: “I might even have to come back; wonder if they sell a ticket for just the third act?” And in some respects, over the years I’ve come to view the book of Acts in a similar way, because it’s twenty-seven chapters in before we get to seafaring adventures, storms, and shipwrecks.

The chapter opens with a sequence of ship-hopping. The trip from Judea to Rome is over a thousand miles as the crow flies, and of course you can’t go as the crow flies. A land journey would likely take years. And even if you’re going by sea, if you don’t have your own ship (and Paul and his Roman escort don’t), you’ve got to find passage on voyages headed toward your destination. So Paul and crew, from the eastern shores of Judea, cruise step by step along the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, avoiding the open water and making their way as they can.

Right around Crete, the weather stops cooperating. By this time, it’s October, and sailing will get even rougher in the winter. The ship’s crew plans to press on, but Paul advises the Roman guards to wait it out and stay off the water until conditions are more favorable. “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives” (10), he tells them, and he’s only half wrong.

Sometimes we’re certain of things that turn out to be wrong. Long story short, Paul accurately predicts the loss of time, cargo, and even the entire ship, but in spite of a catastrophic series of events, everyone on board manages to survive. In fact, Paul changes his tune when God actually speaks to him. While lost at sea, he tells his entourage, “There will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you’” (22-24). The tightrope between undue skepticism and unmerited confidence is a thin one, but Paul takes caution only to attribute to the infallible God only the message that God actually sends him.

Anyway, I recommend that you read the entire adventure. On numerous occasions the passengers are almost lost, but each time providence intervenes. And the adventures aren’t over by the end of the chapter either. Crew’s barely on the shores of Malta now, and there’s some crazy stuff that goes down on Malta.

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