The Sequel – Day 23

April 30, Thursday

SnakebiteOnce 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.

The Sequel – Day 20

April 27, Monday

Paul and FelixSome days later Felix along with his wife Drusilla, herself a Jewess, sent for Paul and enquired about the Message of Christ Jesus. However, while Paul was talking about goodness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became troubled and dismissed him, saying, “That will be enough for now. When I find time, I will send for you again.” He was actually hoping that Paul would pay him money, which is why Paul was frequently summoned to come and talk with him. However, after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and as Festus wanted to curry favor with the Jews, he left Paul in prison.

Just three days after Festus had taken over his duties as Governor, he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. While he was there, the chief priests and elders of the Jews informed him of the case against Paul and urged him to have Paul sent to Jerusalem. They had already made a plot to kill him on the way. But Festus replied that Paul was in custody in Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly.

“What you must do,” he told them, “is to provide some competent men of your own to go down with me.  They can present their charges against him there.”

About ten days later Festus returned to Caesarea from Jerusalem.  The very next day he took his seat on the bench and ordered Paul to be brought in. As soon as he arrived, the Jews from Jerusalem pressed in around him, bringing all kinds of serious accusations with no evidence whatsoever.  Paul defended himself by simply stating, “I have committed no offence in any way against the Jewish Law, against the Temple, or against Caesar.”

But Festus, wishing to gain favor with the Jews, asked Paul, “Are you prepared to go up to Jerusalem and stand your trial over these matters in my presence there?”

Paul replied, “Here I stand in Caesar’s tribunal which is where I should be judged. I have done the Jews no harm, as you very well know. If I were proven to be a criminal and had committed some crime which deserved the death penalty, I would willingly accept the sentence of death. But since there is no truth in the accusations these men have made, I am not prepared to be used as a means of gaining their favor.  I appeal to Caesar!”

Then Festus, after a brief meeting with his council, replied to Paul, “You have appealed to Caesar.  Then to Caesar you shall go!”

Some days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea on a state visit to Festus. They prolonged their stay for some days and Festus spoke with him about Paul’s case, saying, “I have here a man who was left a prisoner by Felix. Recently, while I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and Jewish elders made allegations against him and demanded his conviction!

“I explained to them that the Romans were not in the habit of handing someone over to their accusers until they had been given the opportunity of defending themselves on the charges made against them. Since these Jews came back here with me, I wasted no time in pursuing the case. However, once the prosecution got up to speak, their charges weren’t at all what I had expected.

“Their charges had to do with their religion and a certain Jesus who had died, but whom Paul claimed to be still alive. Since I did not feel qualified to adjudicate the matter, I asked the man if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there. It was at that point that he appealed to have his case reserved for the decision of the Emperor himself. So I ordered him to be kept in custody until I could send him to Caesar.”

Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.”

“Then you shall hear him tomorrow,” replied Festus.

The Sequel – Day 11

April 18, Saturday

Paul Elymas.jpgIncluded among the believers in the Church at Antioch were a number of prophets and teachers: Barnabas; Simeon from Niger; Lucius from Cyrene; Manaen, the foster-brother of Herod Antipas; and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke to them, saying, “Set Barnabas and Saul apart for Me for a task to which I have called them.” After further fasting and prayer, they laid their hands on them and sent them on their way, John Mark accompanying them.

The Holy Spirit led them to the port city of Seleucia where they boarded a ship for the island of Cyprus. They explained God’s Message in the synagogues from Salamis to Paphos and throughout the island. In Paphos, the provincial capitol, they made the acquaintance of Sergius Paulus, the governor, a man of considerable intellect.  He summoned them, anxious to hear what they had to say. Now a Jewish magician by the name of Elymas was a personal advisor to the governor. When he heard them explaining the word of God, he tried hard to prevent the governor from taking hold of it.

Then the Holy Spirit filled Saul, who is also called Paul, with a rebuke for Elymas: “Why, you son of the devil! You’re as devious and deceptive as the devil himself, the enemy of all that is right, forever twisting the simple ways of the Lord. May the Lord touch you with blindness since you refuse to see the truth and would hinder others.” Instantly, something like a foggy mist came over Elymas; he had to get someone to lead him about. Witnessing this dramatic event convinced the governor of the truth of Paul’s message.


From Paphos, Paul and the team sailed for Perga in Pamphylia on the mainland. John Mark turned back, however, and did not continue with them, returning instead to Jerusalem. After passing through Perga, they went on to Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath they went to the local synagogue. After the reading of the Law and Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue invited them to speak, saying, “Men and brothers, if you have any message of encouragement for the people, by all means speak.”

Paul stood up and proceeded to give them a brief history of God’s dealings. “Fellow Jews and all of who fear God, listen to me. God chose our fathers and prospered the people of Israel while they were exiles in the land of Egypt. Then He demonstrated His power and led them out of that land after which time He put up with them for forty years in the wilderness. He destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan and gave them that land as their inheritance.

“For the next four hundred and fifty years He gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. The people begged for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, to be their king for forty years. Saul was replaced by David, a man of whom God Himself said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’

“And it is from the line of David that God, as He had promised, brought Jesus to Israel to be their Savior. Right before Jesus came, John the baptizer proclaimed the baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. Toward the end of his ministry John said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not He. Behold, Someone comes after me whose shoe-lace I am not fit to untie!’

“Brothers, sons of Abraham, and all who fear God, hear me when I tell you that this message of salvation has now been sent to us!  The people of Jerusalem and their rulers refused to recognize Him or to heed the prophets which are read every Sabbath day. In condemning Him they fulfilled these very prophecies!

“Even though they had no grounds for a death penalty, they begged Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out everything that was written about Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead. For many days He was seen by His followers from Galilee. These men are now His witnesses to the world.

“We have come to tell you the Good News that the promise made to our forefathers has come true. God has fulfilled it by raising up Jesus as He foretold in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten You.’  When He said, ‘I will give You the sure mercies of David,’ God was affirming that He would be raised up never to see death again, as He mentions in yet another Psalm, ‘You will not allow your Holy One to see corruption.’

“It could not have been referring to David, you know, because after he had completed God’s plan for his life, he died and was laid with his ancestors. His body did experience decay, but this Man whom God raised never saw corruption!

“The point of all this is that forgiveness of sins is available to you through this Man. Everyone who entrusts themselves to Him is freed from all those things from which the Law of Moses could never set him free. Only be careful that this saying of the prophets should never apply to you: ‘Behold, you scoffers, marvel and perish; for I am doing something incredible in your day which you will by no means believe, even though it is explained to you.’”

As the people left the synagogue that day, they urged Paul to return the following Sabbath to share the message again. Many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke personally to them and urged them to put their trust in the grace of God.

On the next Sabbath almost the entire city gathered to hear the message of God; but when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They contradicted what Paul was saying and slandered him. Paul and Barnabas turned to the agitators and said, “We came to speak the Message of God to you first; but since you reject it and evidently do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we will turn our attention to the Gentiles!  In fact, the Lord commanded us to do so when He said: ‘I have set you to be a light to the Gentiles, that you should take the message of salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

When the Gentiles heard this, they were thrilled and responded wholeheartedly to the word of the Lord. All those who were destined for eternal life believed, and the Word of the Lord kept spreading throughout the region. But the offended Jews stirred up some of the prominent women and leading men, who, in turn, started a wave of persecution against Paul and Barnabas, ultimately forcing them to leave the area. Shaking the dust from their feet in protest, they went on to Iconium. The disciples continued to be full of joy and the Holy Spirit.