Acts 28 – Shipwreck II: Wrapping Up the Adventure, or Not

acts 28 bible with endangered species 88 percent cocoa dark chocolate

Today’s ChocolateEndangered Species 88% Cocoa Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassageActs 28

The adventure continues in today’s chapter, at least until it ends. And since early childhood, I’ve associated the book of Acts with Paul’s snakebite from this chapter. I remember a Sunday school handout telling the story of the storm, shipwreck, and island encounter through text and illustrations. In a simple but realistic style, one of the drawings depicted Paul withdrawing from the campfire with a writhing snake clinging to his hand. It was exciting and a little bit scary, and it locked the idea into my head that sometimes missionaries have adventures. It was like the book of Acts itself had latched onto my brain with serpent teeth.

But the snake that bites Paul’s hand isn’t some garden-variety…um, garden snake. Luke–and the natives–identify it as a viper, a specifically venomous snake. The island’s inhabitants have shown hospitality in getting the fire going for the cold, wet shipwreck survivors. But when the viper bites Paul, they expect that death, or at least swelling and suffering, is right around the corner for the apostle. Moreover, they assume the viper is karmic, saying, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live” (28:4). So when, miraculously, Paul suffers no adverse effects even long after the snakebite, the people of the island change their tune.

In fact, they transpose their tune to a key on the opposite side of the circle of fifths and then play it backwards. The man they were previously decrying as a murderer getting his due they now hail as a god. As you may recall, this certainly isn’t the first time such nonsense has happened. Paul got mistaken for Zeus in Lystra (14:11-13), Cornelius tried to worship Peter upon meeting him (10:25-26), and Herod Agrippa I makes the fatal mistake of letting an overzealous crowd declare his final speech “the voice of a god and not of a man!” (12:21-23). Apparently the thing to do in the Greek-speaking ancient world is to call human beings gods.

Luke doesn’t report any attempts by Paul to correct the natives or tell them the gospel, despite spending three months there. But he does record that Paul heals their sick. It begins with Paul healing the bedridden father of the island’s leader, Publius, and word travels from there, to the point where all those with diseases are coming to him for healing. The inhabitants are grateful for Paul’s help, and they make sure that Paul and crew are well-supplied when they set sail again after the coldest months of winter have passed. It’s odd that Luke doesn’t mention Paul preaching at all on the island, but knowing Paul, I kind of expect that it happened anyway. And as for the natives’ attempt to deify him, perhaps they didn’t call him a god to his face, and they stopped once it became clear ? But I speculate.

As the chapter concludes, Paul finally makes it to Rome. There, while he waits two years for a chance to make his appeal to Caesar, he connects with the Jewish community in Rome and tries to get them on board with Christianity, with mixed results. But the final verse of Acts comes and goes without Paul getting his appeal to Caesar. It’s weird to see the final chapters of the book escalate only to end hanging there, unresolved. But after a fashion, that’s life. Are you still breathing? Did you wake up this morning? Then your story isn’t over.

And I still owe you guys one more post for this week, so assuming my story isn’t over, I’ll be cracking open a new book and delivering a post tomorrow, accompanied by the last of the melted Endangered Species extremely dark chocolate. See y’all tomorrow, fam.

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