Paul's Witness on Malta
A Warm Welcome
28:1 When we had escaped, then they learned that the island was called
28:2 The natives showed us uncommon kindness; for they kindled a fire,
and received us all, because of the present rain, and because of the
Paul Survives a Snake Bite
28:3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the
a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
28:4 When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand,
they said one to another, "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom,
though he has escaped from the sea, yet Justice has not allowed to
28:5 However he shook off the creature into the fire, and wasn't harmed.
28:6 But they expected that he would have swollen or fallen down dead
but when they watched for a long time and saw nothing bad happen to
they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
Paul's Heals the Sick
28:7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands
belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius,
who received us, and courteously entertained us for three days.
28:8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick of fever and dysentery.
Paul entered in to him, prayed, and laying his hands on him, healed
28:9 Then when this was done, the rest also who had diseases in the
and were cured.
28:10 They also honored us with many honors, and when we sailed,
they put on board the things that we needed.
The Final Leg to Rome
28:11 After three months, we set sail in a ship of Alexandria
which had wintered in the island, whose sign was "The Twin Brothers."
28:12 Touching at Syracuse, we stayed there three days.
28:13 From there we circled around and arrived at Rhegium.
After one day, a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came
28:14 where we found brothers, and were entreated to stay with them
for seven days.
So we came to Rome.
28:15 From there the brothers, when they heard of us,
came to meet us as far as The Market of Appius and The Three Taverns.
When Paul saw them, he thanked God, and took courage.
28:16 When we entered into Rome,
the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard,
but Paul was allowed to stay by himself with the soldier who guarded
Though Paul had to face difficult circumstances yet on this journey to
Rome God gave him favor in the eyes of men. "When a man's ways
are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with
him." Prov 16:7
The Snake Bite
But at first the Maltese viewed him simply as a criminal upon whom God
was bringing judgment through the shipwreck and snake bite. The world often
interprets circumstances incorrectly. The book of Job for example revealed
that bad things indeed happen to righteous people, but that the world mistakenly
presumes fortunate people are good people and unfortunate people are bad
people. The world misses the big picture. But here we see a rather amusing
picture of their folly. For first they interpret Paul to be a bad person
because of his misfortune in getting bitten by the snake. But then they
consider him a god after he suffered no bad effects. Immunity to snake
bites may have been a characteristic imputed to the apostles as it is written,
will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison,
it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people,
and they will get well." Mark 16:18 And indeed we see Paul go
on to miraculously heal the sick there. The snake bite also has a particularly
symbolic significance in the book of Numbers chapter 21 of which Jesus
also alludes in John 3:14 when speaking to Nicodemus of salvation.
For at one time when the people of Israel sinned against God in the desert
God sent venomous snakes among them. But after the people repented God
had Moses erect a bronze snake. "So Moses made a bronze snake and put
it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the
bronze snake, he lived." Num 21:8 The snakes also represent
Satan who deceived Eve in the garden of Eden, which led to this whole mess.
But believers are inevitably saved from such effects. And thus God showed
this symbolically at times through immunity to snake bites and through
vs 7-10 Though these people were receptive to Paul, yet it appears
that their being healed was not dependent upon their faith in Christ. For
Luke doesn't mention of conversions. Publius' father was healed and that
was the basis for others coming to be healed. Of course Paul no doubt used
the opportunity to preach the gospel as well, and the healings affirmed
the gospel. Yet in coming to be healed their faith at least at first was
not in the message but in the messenger. Faith in the messenger precedes
faith in the message. But God does not require a blind faith such as that
advocated in other religions like Islam. For God affirms his messengers
Remember the Romans
These events were no doubt greatly refreshing to Paul who had been locked
up for a fews years in Caesarea. Though supposedly a prisoner yet here
we find him freely ministering as Jesus did. But let us also remember that
his primary mission was to the Romans. How were these events beneficial
to his ministry in Rome? Because all this time, through all these events,
he was practically chained to Roman guards, as he would be also in Rome.
(Talk about a "captive" audience!) Here the Romans were not simply subject
to sermons, but to real life events. In Caesarea they had probably heard
the gospel message. But now they saw the Christian life in action and lived
along side it in the midst of difficult circumstances. They learned of
the importance of relying on the Word of God. They learned what "faith"
meant. They learned that the God of the Bible was the only true God and
that He interacts with man and is gracious, and that He has a relationship
with these special people known as Christians among whom also He has given
authority for some like Paul to do miracles in His name. Paul was not alone
in his ministry to Rome. Along with his traveling companions there were
other Christians there waiting to meet him and indeed going way out of
their way to greet him. And this also his Roman captors witnessed and was
an affirmation of his good reputation which all led to his being treated
relatively well during his imprisonment in Rome. Though being captive yet
he did not view his captors as enemies, but as legitimate authority figures
appointed by God. This was a very important point if the gospel was to
penetrate the hierarchical and militant Roman mindset.