"The head man in that part of the island was Publius. He took us into his home as his guests, drying us out and putting us up in fine style for the next three days. Publius' father was sick at the time, down with a high fever and dysentery. Paul went to the old man's room, and when he laid hands on him and prayed, the man was healed. Word of the healing got around fast, and soon everyone on the island who was sick came and got healed." Acts 28:7-9 (The Message).
Imagine a small community of islanders having to play host to 256 unexpected guests, and not just for a day!
But with Paul among them, they were not parasites. Through him, God repaid their hosts' kindness and generosity in ways that were far beyond what money could buy. Wherever he went, you could count on it that Paul would share his priceless message and the mercy of God that reached out to all people. In the unshakeable knowledge of God's grace, he gave away the gift of healing to people who were ignorant and undeserving but who needed to know Him as much as anyone else.
Once again the devil's agenda was thwarted and what could have been a terrible disaster turned out to be another of God's opportunities to share His love with an isolated community which might not have otherwise heard. Paul did it in a very practical way, dispensing healing through the power of the Holy Spirit to the whole island. I'm sure many of the people would have wished they were sick just to experience God's healing power!
"We spent a wonderful three months on Malta. They treated us royally, took care of all our needs and outfitted us for the rest of the journey. When an Egyptian ship that wintered there in the harbour prepared to leave for Italy, we got on board. The ship had a carved Gemini for its figurehead: "The Heavenly Twins."
"We put in at Syracuse for three days and then went up the coast to Rhegium. Two days later, with the wind out of the south, we sailed into the Bay of Naples. We found Christian friends there and stayed with them for a week." Acts 28:10-14 (The Message).
Mission accomplished! The Roman centurion and soldiers must have breathed a sigh of relief when they placed their feet on Italian soil. Luke does not specify, but it seems that the centurion trusted Paul enough to allow him to stay with friends until they could deliver him to Caesar. Perhaps he left him in the custody of one or two soldiers while he continued on to Rome to make arrangements for Paul.
One wonders why Luke commented on the figurehead on the Egyptian ship. Was he telling his reader that the ship sailed under the protection of "Gemini" until the moment that Paul and his little company of believers stepped on board? From then on, while they were on the ship, it sailed under the covering of Paul's God. The company that boarded the ship after their own was wrecked had learned that anywhere was safe, even in a hurricane storm, where they were in the hands of God.
Would they ever forget their interlude in the company of Paul? Their time on Malta was no trial --they had experienced the bounty of God's provision through the islanders, and all because God was showing them the care and favour of a loving Father. No doubt Paul took every opportunity to tell them the story of Jesus and demonstrate His resurrection power by healing sick people.
Wherever he went, Paul was a living, walking, breathing testimony to Jesus. He turned every disaster into an opportunity to put the glory of his Master on display. As turbulent and eventful as his life had been, it was all lived for and focussed on the one person who had captured his heart and transformed him from angry persecutor to passionate preacher. For Paul, God's peace which was his priceless possession was all that mattered and came to him through his unassailable trust in God.
"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." Isaiah 26:3 (NIV).
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