In Acts chapter 28, Luke continues the detailed account of his and Paul’s journey to Rome. We read about their encounter with the kind people of Malta, as well as the not-so-kind viper who didn’t seem to cause Paul much distress, all the way to their long awaited arrival in Rome. This arrival was a big deal. Paul had been determined for a long time to find his way to Rome, (as seen in Acts 19:21 and Romans 1:15) and not only fulfilled this promise to himself, but also Christ’s prophecy that his disciples would be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Paul spent every bit of his time there (two years waiting for his case to be heard before Caesar) teaching everyone who came to him, sharing the message with Jews and Gentiles alike, welcoming anyone who would listen. Two whole years “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:31) Even in this season of waiting and uncertainty, God did not waste a minute of Paul’s time. In fact his ministry continued “without hindrance” – despite every trial they faced, from storms to snakes, the will and word of God was unhindered; no trial, no amount of unfair treatment, nor the passing months of captivity mattered as much as the immeasurable good Paul could be doing in the lives of others. Imagine the amount of soldiers he spoke to, the amount of brothers and sisters in Christ he met in Rome, every Jew eager to meet Paul, whose famous letters they had previously received, every Gentile curious about or zealous for Christ, and eventually Caesar himself. He made a profound impact, even while in chains.
The book of Acts doesn’t have a grand finale; this story continues even today. Paul said “Yes” to God time and time again, and every person who’s said “Yes” since continues his ministry, bringing the Kingdom message to the ends of the earth. Surrender your life and boldly say “Yes” when you hear God’s voice calling you; His plans will not be hindered.
In what ways can you proclaim the kingdom of God even when you find yourself in a period of trials or uncertainty?
What do you hear God calling you to do to further His Kingdom today?
How did Paul continue forward with such courage and boldness despite the many tests of faith he faced? Similarly, how can we?
Have there been times in your life where you’ve been taken somewhere you didn’t expect? Last spring, I was taking a drive when I became lost on some of the backroads. I was filled with uncertainty about my location and starting to get anxious about finding my way back. As I found myself where I didn’t expect to be, a lost lamb appeared on the road. It was nearly hit by oncoming traffic as it frantically sprinted down the pavement. The cream and brown spotted lamb was panting from exhaustion. It was scared and confused. Because I was at this unexpected intersection, I was able to get the lamb off the road and put it in my truck. After searching for its farm and calling the sheriff, eventually it was reunited with its home. Sometimes it is the places that we don’t see coming, where we prove to be the most useful.
In Acts 28 we learn about Paul’s experiences on the island where he and the rest of the people on his ship came to be shipwrecked. As we read yesterday, Paul’s journey was quite wild. But God had delivered them safely to this Island called Malta. When Paul left for Rome, he probably never expected to make a pit stop, let alone be shipwrecked at this place. Yet, this was where he was taken, and it was not without purpose.
On this island, in the middle of the Mediterranean, Paul was able to interact with the people. These inhabitants of Malta saw something different about Paul as they had witnessed him being delivered from the sea and from a snake bite. And then Paul was able to pray for and heal their sick. An island that might not have been a priority for people of that time to take the gospel to had nonetheless witnessed it through Paul’s unexpected stay there.
So, although this time and stay in Malta had been unexpected, it proved useful and it exposed others to the One True God. So, while you may at times find yourself in an unexpected place, do not be discouraged. Sometimes it is the most unexpected places in our lives that God uses us for an unexpected purpose.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Kings 13-14 and Acts 28
Starting with the arrest of Paul in chapter 21, Luke has been steering his readers to a grand finale, where Paul will finally stand in front of the most powerful man in the world to give his testimony. The Apostle endured conspiracies against his life, corruption in government, and finally storms at sea to make it to Rome. Paul was willing to go through all this because he had a clear vision and purpose for his life and knew Rome was where God wanted him to be and the Emperor was who God wanted him to see.
But the conclusion Luke had been building towards is suddenly cut short with Paul under house arrest. We’re not told if he ever got the chance to defend his case before the Emperor, but we can be confident that he did since God said he would. Though exactly how it came about or what happened after is a mystery. There are traditions that say he was acquitted and then brought the Gospel to Spain, but Luke doesn’t confirm or deny it. He just closes his book with a cliffhanger.
So what are we to take away from this saga with the abrupt and unresolved ending and why would Luke decide to leave it the way he did?
Luke began the Book of Acts by reporting the last interactions Jesus had with his disciples before he ascended. He told them that they would be his witnesses in their local regions and then throughout the world. Luke then proceeded to show his readers how the disciples went about doing this. But he left his story open-ended, and he did all this for a reason.
The Acts of the Apostles is about how the disciples carried out the Great Commission and it is left unresolved because the story wasn’t supposed to end with Paul in Rome, it was supposed to progress with disciples continuing to fulfill the final instructions of Jesus. And it did. The reason you’re reading this now is that the witnessing has endured to this day. And it will continue so long as people like you and me keep spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
So don’t worry about this cliffhanger. The final resolution will come when Jesus himself returns to see the fruit of his disciples’ labor and to establish the Kingdom they represent. Until then, we must maintain the work that was started in Christ and continued with his disciples. May the perseverance and commitment of Paul and the rest of the Apostles act as an example for you on your journey and encourage you to remain faithful in the advancement of the Great Commission.