Monday, July 19, 2021
“And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm” (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).
What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?
After hearing Paul deliver his testimony-sermon in Jerusalem, unbelieving Israel is convicted and seeks to take his life in a riot (chapter 22). However, the Roman chief captain intervenes and arrests him. Paul subsequently stands before the Sanhedrin—the Jewish supreme court—in chapter 23. (The Sanhedrin is largely apostate, having sentenced Jesus to death 30 years earlier.) A bitter conflict breaks out in the proceedings, and Paul is rescued from the mob. By chapter’s end, he has been secretly sent away to a prison in Caesarea, for the unbelieving Jews had yet again conspired to kill him in Jerusalem. Chapter 24 documents how he stood before Judaean Roman Governor Felix. Unbelieving Israel falsely accuses him in the courtroom. He is ultimately incarcerated for two years.
In chapter 25, Paul stands before the new Governor of Judaea, Porcius Festus. Unbelieving Israel again falsely accuses Paul. As a Roman citizen, Paul takes advantage of his legal right to appeal directly to the Roman Emperor in Rome. King Herod Agrippa II—great-grandson of Herod the Great (Matthew chapter 2)—also gets involved in these legal proceedings. Paul shares his testimony with Agrippa, intimately communing with him (chapter 26). Having already voiced his wish to personally stand before the Emperor in Rome, Paul is placed on a ship bound for Italy, commencing his fourth and final apostolic journey of Acts (chapter 27). By chapter’s end, a storm in the Mediterranean Sea results in a shipwreck. He, his companions, and all the prisoners and military officials aboard, are now stranded at sea. They wash ashore on the tiny island of “Melita” (present Malta, south of Sicily). The final chapter of Acts, the context of today’s Scripture, opens….