Sunday, March 11, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "From Jerusalem to Rome"

“From Jerusalem to Rome”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
March 11, 2012
Acts 27:1-28:16

We’ve almost reached the end of the book. Just one more message left after today. Lord-willing, we’ll finish the book in two weeks, on March 25th.

Our series has been called, “From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania” and we’ve followed the exploits of the apostles as they obeyed Jesus’ call to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

For the last few months, the focus has been on the apostle Paul, a dramatically converted Jewish missionary to the Gentile world.

We followed Paul on three major church planting missionary journeys and then his trip back to Jerusalem where he was almost lynched by the Jews and then languished in prison for over two years while the wheels of injustice turned.

And at the end of last week, we saw Paul appeal his case to the highest human authority in the whole empire: Caesar himself. And the Roman governor, Festus, washed his hands of Paul and announced that he was sending him to Caesar.

So, this sermon is titled, “From Jerusalem to Rome.”

Rome was the capital city of the Empire.

Paul had, in his letters, expressed a desire to go to Rome and to encourage the believers there. There is a book in the Bible called, “Romans” that Paul wrote the believers who were already there and told them that he’d like to visit them some time.

And now, it appears, that he will.

More than appears.

God has promised that Paul will get to Rome.

Turn back to chapter 23 and look again verse 11.

“The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

“You must.”

The Lord had revealed His plan to Paul in such a way that Paul could count on it like a promise.

And God always keeps His promises.

We’ve emphasized verse 11 of chapter 23 in the last three messages.

“Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

Well, now Paul is headed towards Rome.

But there will be a lot of obstacles in his way.

There are at least three moments in chapter 27 and the first part of chapter 28 when it really seems like Paul will not make it.

Have you felt like you’re not going to make it?
Have you ever felt like God’s promises won’t come true for you?
Are you up against some obstacles in life right now?

Last week, we said again and again, “Nothing on earth can stop the plans and promises of God.”

And we’re going to see that again this week and think together about how that should affect our hearts and lives today.

It’s time for an adventure.

Now, remember this is not a tourist trip that Paul is taking.

Paul is in the custody of the Romans. He is basically a prisoner, though he has not been found guilty of anything.

And in custody of Rome, he is headed from Jerusalem to Rome. Chapter 27, verse 1.

“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.”

Now, as you can see, we are going to look at our last map for this sermon series.

Starting in Caesarea and heading up the coast of Palestine.

Paul is on board, and he gets two traveling companions. Aristarchus and who?

Luke, right?  We get kind of a “doctor’s log of this adventure from him. V.3

“The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. [He’s not seen as a threat, even to try to escape.] From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. [The lee is actually to the North of Cyprus due to the winds there.] When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia [Those are familiar names by now, aren’t they?]. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.

Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast [on the calendar, that means that winter is approaching, and they couldn’t (at least they shouldn’t) sail the Mediterranean during the winter]. So Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’ [Think about what you are doing.]

But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said [what does the prisoner know about sailing?], followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.

[By the way, this is not Paul’s first sea trip, is it?  One commentary I read this week estimated that Paul had already traveled 3,500 sea miles at this point in his ministry. Maybe he does know what he’s talking about!]

Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest. [Notice how accurate Luke’s description is? He is a master historian.]

When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. [Can you see it in your mind?]

Here’s the first big obstacle. A storm.

“Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the ‘northeaster,’ swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure.  When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along.”

What is there to the West of Cauda?


They are adrift in a terrible storm with no land in sight.

“We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. [Desperation!] On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands.

When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

[Feel that desperation!]

After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss.  But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.’

Let’s think about that speech for just a second.

Paul starts by saying, “I told you so.” Why?

Just to score a point off of them?

No, it’s to remind them that he does know what he’s talking about.

Because now, he’s going to give them good news.

An angel has told Paul that he “must stand trial before Caesar,” so he’s going to get from Jerusalem to Rome. And more than that, they are all going to make it, too, if they sail with him.

Obstacle #1. The Storm.

Is a storm enough to stop God’s plans and promises?

No way.

Here’s application #1. I have four applications today and they are all variations on the same theme.


That’s what Paul tells the sailors.

How many people are on board during this storm?

Verse 37 tells us that there 276 on board. That’s almost twice as many people as in this building today.

And they are listening to Paul.

They have stopped eating because they’ve lost all hope.

Have you ever lost hope so bad that you stopped eating?

Paul says (v.22), “Keep up your courage.”  Verse 25. “Keep up your courage.”

Why?  “For I have faith in God.”

Nothing can stop the plans and promises of God.

So, keep up your courage.

The King James Version says, “Be of good cheer.”

Does anybody here need to hear that today?

At first, as I was developing this message and all of the points of the message seemed to be pointing towards “Keep up your courage,” I was a little disappointed because I like to give you a variety of applications on a Sunday morning.

But I got to thinking about it and if a lot of us need encouraging (and who doesn’t?), then it’s good to repeat this theme again and again.

Keep up your courage. God has good things in store for you.

Nothing on earth can stop the plans and promises of God.

For example, Philippians 1:6, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Do you believe that God is really going to do that?

What about the storm?!

You see, when Paul said this, the storm was still raging.

And it didn’t stop when Paul gave his little speech.

Nothing changed in the wind and waves and the darkness!

But God’s promise had been given.

And by faith, these men could keep up their courage.  V.27

“On the fourteenth night [2 weeks of this storm!] we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. [Sailors know these things. Some little sound changes and they know it.]  They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. [Uh oh. I have a bad feeling about this!] Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.

In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.’

So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away. [The prisoner is now running the ship! And they are trusting him enough to let go of the lifeboat!]

Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. ‘For the last fourteen days,’ he said, ‘you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food–you haven't eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.’ After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board.”

Here’s the second point. Goes along with the first.


These guys had given up eating because they didn’t have any hope.

But if you have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you believe that nothing on earth can stop the plans and promises of God, if you believe that God always keeps his promises, then you don’t have to give up or give in.

Don’t give up.

I love this part, how Paul does this object lesson.

He eats something.

Again, nothing has changed. The storm still rages. The water is getting shallower.

They are headed for who knows what, but Paul gets something to eat.

He says, “Don’t give up.”

This is a small thing, but there were several times last year that I wanted to give up on my doctoral project–especially when it came to the footnotes and formatting stuff.

It reduced me to tears more than once.

But my wife would say, “You can, should, and will get this done.”

And listened to her and did what the Lord was calling me to, and now it’s almost over.

Don’t give up.

But Give Thanks.


Did you catch that in verse 35?  “After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.”

Paul gave thanks for bread.

Yes, there is a storm raging, but here’s some bread.

If nothing else, I can thank God that I have this bread today.

If your life is a hurricane right now, and it might be, what can you give thanks for in the midst of it?

I hope you don’t mind my mentioning this Ernie, but when I went to see you in the hospital after your third surgery in a month, the thing you said to me was, “I feel blessed.”

And that really grabbed me.

Because I might feel depressed after 3 surgeries in a month.

And certainly, you didn’t enjoy your surgeries.

But you were thinking about your family who cared for you, your church who prayed for you, the hospital with its state-of-the-art facilities, good doctors who cared for you, and quick recovery times.

And you were blessed. You had some real things to give thanks for.

That’s right.

All too often, we focus on what’s wrong–and there are things wrong!

And without pretending that they are not bad, we can also look around and give thanks for our daily bread.

And that thankfulness of Paul’s was contagious. Verse 36 says, “They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board.”

Second obstacle: Shipwreck.

Paul has predicted it. It’s coming. V.38

“When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea. When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.

But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul's life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.”

The fulfillment of God’s promise and Paul’s prophesy.

They all made. All 276 of them.

Can a storm stop God’s plan and promise?
Can a shipwreck stop God’s plan and promise?

No way.

One more, can a snakebite do it?

Chapter 28, verse 1. [map]

“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. [One hundred and twenty miles from Rome.] The islanders showed us unusual kindness [I wonder why that was?]. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.


When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, ‘This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.’ But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.

The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”

Can a snakebite stop the plans and promises of God?

No way.

Here’s #4. KEEP GOING. V.7

“There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed. After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.

We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. There we found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.

The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged. When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.”

That’s where we’re going to stop this week, Paul has made it from Jerusalem to Rome.

We’ll see next week what he does there.

How did he get there?

He kept going.

Do you need that encouragement today?

My guess is that some of us do.

Acts 27 and 28 are today’s word from the Bible to keep us going.

Keep your courage.
Don’t Give Up
Give Thanks

And Keep Going.

Keep doing what you know God wants you to do.

Don’t throw in the towel.

Keep going.

Because you know that nothing on earth can stop God’s plan and promises.

He always keeps His promises.

Trust Him.

Believe Him.

Follow Him.

Keep going by faith.

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