39 Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. 40 So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. 41 But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. 42 The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, 44 and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
There is a whole genre of Ancient Greek literature that is the sea-voyage tale. Luke would have read them and known them just like I know superhero movies and G.I. Joe. In those stories, Fate, or some gods and goddesses, would execute judgment on the evil by destroying them in the sea.
It was an easy place to kill off the bad guys.
An Ancient Greek reader of the Book of Acts would see this as judgment playing out, just like in all of the other stories. Luke fit in the culture of his day as he told the life story of Paul. The ship is lost, the anchors aren’t even worth keeping, and the whole crew is at risk.
If a prisoner escaped a Roman guard, the guard could lose his life. Instead of giving these prisoners the chance to possibly survive, the army guys would rather just kill them all off. Since there can’t be any favoritism, here is another instance where Paul saves everyone’s life. Since they can’t justly kill all of the prisoners except for Paul, they are all saved.
We don’t have any recordings of him preaching on this boat, but we know from Ephesians, Romans, Galatians, and more that Paul’s message was that Jesus Christ has saved you from the punishment of your sin. If you call on the name of the Lord Jesus, the punishment of sin will fall fully on Jesus and not on you.
So if anybody ever deserved to die at sea, it was this boatload of prisoners and convicts, right? And yet, with Paul on board, they were all saved.
Every one of them made it to shore, even the dudes that didn’t know how to swim!
The Good News of Jesus Christ is coming through this culturally appropriate story even as it occurred in real life. Just like the prophets and Exodus, God used real-life events to convey His character and ways.
Whether on a sinking ship (literally) or with us sinking hopelessly in our sins, God wants us to trust Him and His words of salvation to us. In doing so, we’ll save ourselves and our hearers.
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