April 30, Thursday
Once we were safely on land, we discovered that the island was called Melita. The natives treated us with uncommon kindness. Because of the driving rain and cold, they lit a fire and made us all welcome.
Paul had collected a large bundle of sticks and was laying it on the fire when a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. Seeing the creature hanging from his hand, the natives said to each other, “This man is obviously a murderer. He has escaped from the sea, but justice will not let him live.” But Paul shook the viper off into the fire. Nothing happened to him. Naturally they expected him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing untoward happen to him, they changed their minds and began saying he was a god.
In that part of the island were estates belonging to the governor, whose name was Publius. He welcomed us and entertained us most generously for three days. Now it happened that Publius’ father was lying ill with fever and dysentery. Paul visited him, prayed, laid his hands on him, and healed him. After that all the other sick people on the island came forward and were cured. Consequently they loaded us with presents; and when the time came for us to sail, they provided us with everything we needed.
However, it wasn’t until three months later that we set sail in an Alexandrian ship which had wintered in the island, a ship that had the astronomical twins, Pollux and Castor, as her figurehead. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days; from there we tacked round to Rhegium. A day later a south wind sprang up and we sailed to Puteoli, reaching it in only two days. There we found some of the brothers and they begged us to stay with them. After spending a week there, we finally made our way to Rome.
The brothers there had heard about us and journeyed about thirty miles south of the city to meet us at the Market of Appius and the Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and was encouraged. In Rome Paul was given permission to live on his own, accompanied by just one soldier.
Three days later Paul invited the leading Jews to meet him. When they arrived, he spoke to them, “Brethren, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our forefathers, I was handed over to the Romans as a prisoner in Jerusalem. They examined me and were prepared to release me since they found me guilty of nothing deserving the death penalty. But the objections of the Jews there forced me to appeal to Caesar — not that I had any accusation to make against my own nation. It is because of this accusation of the Jews that I have asked to see you and talk this over with you. The fact is that I am wearing these chains on account of the hope of Israel.”
But they replied, “We have received no letters about you from Judea, nor have any of the brothers come here with complaints against you, officially or unofficially. We want to hear you state your views; although as far as this sect is concerned, we do know that serious objections have been raised to it everywhere.”
When they had arranged a day for him, they came to his lodging in great numbers. From morning till evening he explained the Kingdom of God to them, giving his personal testimony, trying to persuade them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and the Prophets. As a result several of them were persuaded by his words, but others would not believe.
As they could not reach any agreement among themselves and began to go away, Paul added these final words, “The Holy Spirit nailed it when He spoke to your forefathers through the prophet Isaiah, saying, ‘Go to the people and say, ‘Even though you hear, you won’t understand; and even if I show you, you still won’t see it. For the heart of this people has grown dull; their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears; lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.’
“From now on the Message of salvation of our God has been sent to the Gentiles, at least they will listen to it!”
So Paul stayed for two full years in his own rented apartment, welcoming all who came to see him. He proclaimed to them all the Kingdom of God and gave them the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.