The Book of Acts: Chapter 27 (pt 2 of 11)

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When it was decided we would sail to Italy, they handed over Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. We went on board a ship from Adramyttium that was about to sail to various ports along the coast of the province of Asia and put out to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon, and Julius, treating Paul kindly, allowed him to go to his friends so they could provide him with what he needed. From there we put out to sea and sailed under the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. After we had sailed across the open sea off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we put in at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found a ship from Alexandria sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it —Acts 27:1-6

It was settled. Paul had appealed to Caesar, so to Caesar he would go. He was one of several prisoners who were on their way to Rome. Now, I doubt these other prisoners had actually appealed to Caesar. Some were probably traveling for execution. If you remember your history, public executions were a part of the entertainment in Rome. Although, Paul was fortunate that he was traveling under the care of a centurion named Julius. Just like all the other centurions, we have met in the Gospels and Acts, Julius was a man with some admirable qualities. Remember the Centurian who protected Saul from being attacked in Jerusalem, as well as the Centurian who asked Jesus to heal one of his servants? Sure, they could be rough, even brutal (remember the abuse Jesus received prior to his execution?)

Apparently, Paul’s ship was a smaller ship that went from port to port, never venturing into the deep, open waters. Traveling with Paul were Aristarchus (who we hear about in Colossians 4:10 and Philemon 24) from Thessalonica and Luke (notice how many times he mentions, “we,” in these verses). They first stopped in Sidon. Julius kindly allowed Paul the freedom to visit with his friends there, and they generously provided Paul with items he would need for his journey, the kinds of things Rome would not supply.

From Sidon, they sailed north, around the eastern side of Cyprus, then turned west, sailing off the northern coast of Cyprus. This gave them some protection from the winds, which were difficult to navigate. This meant that the ship had to tack in zigzag fashion, because you cannot sail directly into the wind. Because of that, travel was slower, which put them later into the sailing season, closer to the time when the sea was closed to shipping because of the winter storms. They sailed off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, putting in at Myra, a port city in Lycia.

Myra is almost directly north of Alexandria, a port city in Egypt. Egypt was the “bread basket” of Rome, and many large ships carried wheat from Egypt to Rome. These ships were large and able to handle the open waters of the Mediterranean. The centurion found an Alexandrian cargo ship loaded with wheat from Egypt and leaving for Italy. He put all the prisoners on board, and they set sail for Rome.

We sailed slowly for many days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus. Because the wind prevented us from going any farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. With difficulty we sailed along the coast of Crete and came to a place called Fair Havens that was near the town of Lasea —Acts 27:7-8

The winds were still heavy, and sailing was slow. They finally reached Cnidus, at least 100 miles or so south of Ephesus. Luke says that “the wind prevented us from going any farther,” meaning that the winds actually prevented them from entering the harbor at Cnidus. Rough seas and high winds can make sailing into port dangerous work. (They didn’t have tug boats in those days. The entrance to the harbor could have been too narrow to allow a ship to tack its way into port). The ship pressed onward until it reached the eastern side of Crete. It then passed under the island and sailed along its southern coast. Finally, they were able to make port in the city of Fair Havens, near Lasea.

If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts

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