The travel itinerary in today’s reading is all by sea. Paul is on his way to Rome to stand before Caesar. Luke and a few other friends of Paul join in this voyage too.
We are not told how long between King Agrippa’s audience with Paul and the decision to finally send him to Caesar was. It could have been days, weeks or even months before they finally set sail. I’m sure it took at least a couple of days because they had to find a ship going their way.
Paul was not the only prisoner being transported in this group. We don’t know how many other prisoners there were either, but we know Paul had at least two traveling companions who went with him. The first is Luke and the second is Aristarchus. The head centurion over this expedition was named Julius.
Julius wasn’t the typical Roman centurion. He actually cared for Paul. I don’t know if it was because he saw Paul’s “value” as a prisoner, if he was protecting Paul because he was a Roman citizen, if he knew Paul was innocent and didn’t deserve to be in chains, or if he believed in the God Paul kept talking about. He also trusted Paul. How else could you explain him letting Paul visit his friends in Sidon? “Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for” (verse 3). He didn’t accompany Paul on this excursion but stayed behind KNOWING that Paul would return to the ship in time to set sail again.
This trust also spoke to Paul’s witness that was being lived out right in front of his captors. Paul witnessed to his guards in how he conducted himself while in chains. He didn’t demand they release him. He didn’t balk at their orders. He didn’t complain about the injustice. He didn’t attempt to escape. Instead he followed every order given him that didn’t conflict with God’s word. He shared God’s word with all the guards daily. He showed respect to his jailers. He showed kindness to them, even when kindness was withheld from him. He showed Jesus’ love in the flesh.
But Julius’ respect for Paul did not extend to the point of ignoring his orders. Julius had a deadline for bring Paul to Rome that not even winter storm warnings could sway. On that front Julius was as determined to get moving as Paul had been to get to Jerusalem. Nothing stopped him and as a Roman centurion he had the power to back up his orders.
I wonder if Julius gave Paul’s warning any weight. Did he believe that Paul was not knowledgeable in this area so he dismissed his warning? Would he have listened and delayed if Paul had said that his warning came from God? Did he truly believe they could make the journey safely? Did he think he had more experience in crossing than the captain of the boat? Or was he more afraid of the consequences of delaying than he was of the dangers of the sea?
Regardless of the reasons Julius insisted the journey continue, Paul and his companions complied. Again, Paul obeyed. Paul had a “secret weapon” though that Julius didn’t. Paul KNEW he would stand before Caesar because God had told him so. And when God says something is going to happen IT DOES. Paul trusted God to deal with the Julius’ stubborn attitude and protect Paul and his companions from harm because of their obedience.
Father God, I want to be a witness like Paul was during this time in his life. No giant fanfare. No screaming to the crowds. No standing on a soapbox. Simply living out his faith right in front of those around him. He didn’t hide his beliefs. He wasn’t silent about the truth. He went about his allotted day living out the love he received from Jesus. He cared for his captors. He humbled himself to their will while still staying within Yours. He witnessed to them daily and brought them to You by the heart he showed in his every action. Let me be that kind of witness for my family. One who doesn’t have to stand up and scream about my faith but let my actions and love shout for me instead.