28:1 After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
Praise God they finally made it to land!
Only to get bitten by a poisonous snake.
If you were a Greek in 100 AD reading this, the story would be telling you that Paul was bad and did wrong somewhere. All of this bad luck was a sign that the gods were punishing him for something Luke never mentioned, or that Paul was wrong about all that he taught.
As always, God uses circumstances to show off His glory. The Maltese folks saw shipwrecks enough. Their island was a stop for the daring sailors that would try to take wheat from Africa to Rome in the winter months. Usually boats stopped there by choice because the sea was too treacherous. Sometimes they stopped there NOT by choice.
Just like people think they are living right when they hit all of the green lights on 41, people on that island think that Paul must be a real criminal if he survived the shipwreck only to be bitten by a snake.
The thing is, Paul’s main message about Jesus Christ is that we don’t get what we deserve. We can be saved from the judgment we deserve and the Hell we inherit from our rebellion and instead experience and inherit the righteousness of God. By one sacrifice God has made us holy, and Paul, despite his circumstances, is walking in that holiness.
It’s a holiness that isn’t hurt when the serpent strikes, but instead, shakes the serpent off and casts him into the fire where he belongs.
It makes you want to read Genesis and Revelation, doesn’t it? They are real life events, but the Holy Spirit is telling a story to us just like He told a story to first century Greeks. Jesus is Lord of all. Whoever is in Him has defeated sin and death.
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