It’s Acts 28:11-16 today.
It’s a long way from Jerusalem to Rome. I’ve just asked my IPhone ‘how far is it from Jerusalem to Rome?’ and the answer came back 1432 miles. That is the distance as the crow flies so Paul would have covered many more miles on his journey.
We began our own journey through the Scriptures in Luke’s Gospel which culminated with Jesus being crucified. For the Romans, a penniless Jew had been executed; nothing more. For the Jewish authorities, it would have seemed like the final victory over a man who had been a source of trouble, remember, they had mocked him as he died. But now, thirty years later, as Paul approached the hub of the Empire over 1400 miles from where Jesus had died; there are followers of Jesus waiting to meet him. That’s remarkable when we consider there were no media outlets as we have today, journeys were difficult as we have seen and Christians were often persecuted.
This final section of the journey involves sailing north from Malta to Syracuse in Sicily, on to Rhegium, a port on the ‘toe of Italy, on to Puteoli in the Bay of Naples and on to Rome by road. The ship was from Alexandria in Egypt and would probably have been carrying grain. Luke records that the ship had the twin gods Castor and Pollux (Gemini) as its figurehead. Paul and his companions are not horrified, we don’t read of them spending time praying that they will not come under demonic influence. They recognised that the gods were superstitious nonsense and saw the ship as a means to get to Rome.
We see another example of Julius the commander’s confidence in Paul as he allowed him to spend a week with the Christians in Puteoli. Julius probably had a reason for wanting to stay in the city for a week but it shows a considerable amount of trust on Julius’ part. It seems that Julius has come to see that Paul’s faith was not an act; he really meant it.
The believers in Rome were so keen to see Paul (remember he had written to them from Corinth) that they came out to meet him. The road Paul would have used is called the Via Appia and it had ‘halting stations’ every ten to fifteen miles along its length. Some of the believers had reached the station at the Forum of Appius, about 43 miles from Rome and some had reached the station at the Three Taverns, about 33 miles from Rome. In his letters, Paul was often giving thanks for the believers that he knew and here we can see he was thankful to God and encouraged. It’s easy to see the negative side of Church life; the problem is the Church is full of people, we don’t always agree and none of us are perfect. But we should be encouraged by one another; we have far more that unites us, we are following Jesus, trusting in the promises of his word and we want to make him known. God could have chosen to make all of his people completely independent of each other but he didn’t. He loves us individually but also as his Church, his Bride and he delights in us! So be encouraged.
“But of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; And the Most High Himself will establish her. The LORD will count when He registers the peoples, “This one was born there.” (Psalm 87:5-6)