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Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 27:39-44

The Shipwreck

39 Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. 40 So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. 41 But striking a reef,[a] they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. 42 The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, 44 and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.

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In last week’s entry, Paul brought the crew and prisoners together to share a meal — their first in a fortnight. Paul gave thanks to God in front of everyone.

Paul had been correct about every aspect about this horrific sea journey, therefore, the men trusted him, especially Julius the centurion.

So here they were nearing land. They had no idea where they were, only that there was a bay with a beach upon which they hoped to get the ship ashore (verse 39).

In order to get the boat ashore, they left the anchors in the sea and loosened the ropes around the rudders before raising the foresail to the wind, enabling them to reach the beach (verse 40). The weight they needed on sea was now unnecessary and, in fact, would inhibit them reaching shore had they kept everything intact.

Matthew Henry’s commentary sets the potentially perilous scene for us with no one on shore to help guide them onto land (emphases mine):

… here we are told, 1. That they knew not where they were; they could not tell what country it was they were now upon the coast of, whether it was Europe, Asia, or Africa, for each had shores washed by the Adriatic Sea. It is probable that these seamen had often sailed this way, and thought they knew every country they came near perfectly well, and yet here they were at a loss. Let not the wise man then glory in his wisdom, since it may perhaps fail him thus egregiously even in his own profession. 2. They observed a creek with a level shore, into which they hoped to thrust the ship, Acts 27:39. Though they knew not what country it was, nor whether the inhabitants were friends or foes, civil or barbarous, they determined to cast themselves upon their mercy; it was dry land, which would be very welcome to those that had been so long at sea. It was a pity but they had had some help from the shore, a pilot sent them, that knew the coast, who might steer their ship in, or another second ship, to take some of the men on board. Those who live on the sea-coast have often opportunity of succouring those who are in distress at sea, and of saving precious lives, and they ought to do their utmost in order to it, with all readiness and cheerfulness; for it is a great sin, and very provoking to God, to forbear to deliver those that are driven unto death, and are ready to be slain; and it will not serve for an excuse to say, Behold, we knew it not, when either we did, or might, and should, have known it, Proverbs 24:11,12.

They struck a reef — or a place between two bodies of water — and struck land. The bow could not be moved, and the surf broke up the stern (verse 41).

The place they landed is today known as St Paul’s Bay in Malta, as Wikipedia explains:

Saint Paul’s Bay (Maltese: San Pawl il-Baħar, Italian: Baia di San Paolo) is a town in the Northern Region of Malta, sixteen kilometres (9.9 miles) northwest of the capital Valletta. Saint Paul’s Bay is the largest town in the Northern Region and the seat of the Northern Regional Committee along with being the most populous town in Malta.

Its name refers to the shipwreck of Saint Paul as documented in the Acts of the Apostles on St. Paul’s Islands near St Paul’s Bay, on his voyage from Caesarea to Rome, which laid the foundations of Christianity on the island.

Burmarrad, Wardija, Qawra, Buġibba, Xemxija, and San Martin, as well as part of Bidnija and Mistra, form part of St. Paul’s Bay Local Council.[2] The area of the locality is 14.47 km2 (6 sq mi).

The population in 2018 was 23,112. This goes up to about 60,000 between June and September with Maltese residents and tourists lodging in hotels, especially in Buġibba and Qawra.

Heading north is Mistra Bay, its headland and St Paul’s Island. Going west and crossing the island towards Ġnejna Bay and Golden Bay is the scenic Wardija Ridge.

Afterwards, still in the days of the Roman Empire:

St. Paul’s Bay became an important harbour. Remains of a Roman road, baths and beehives, have been found at Xemxija, while Roman anchors were found on the seabed.

Oddly, St Paul is not the patron saint of the bay. Instead, the patron saints are Our Lady of Sorrows, the Sacred Heart of Mary and St Francis of Assisi.

Returning to Luke’s account of the shipwreck, the Roman soldiers were highly concerned about any prisoners escaping. This was because, under Roman law, a guard would be made to assume his escapee’s sentence. That could mean prison or death.

Therefore, the soldiers planned to kill the prisoners, thereby preventing any escape (verse 42).

However, Julius the centurion, their commanding officer, ordered them not to do that (verse 43). He wanted to save Paul, whom he liked from the time the Apostle was assigned to his ship to sail to Rome for trial.

Julius ordered those who could swim to do so and the rest could buoy themselves on planks or pieces of the ship.

In the end, everyone landed safely on Malta (verse 44).

John MacArthur elaborates on the concluding verses of Acts 27, which really describe a divine miracle, because the violent storm was still raging:

So they head in and they’re headed, supposedly, for a beachy area by a creek “and falling into a place where two seas met.”

That, friends, is a very difficult phrase. Dithalassos is the one word. The translation “two seas meet” may not even be an accurate translation. It probably means a shoal or a reef. They could have called it the dithalassos in this sense. In the middle of Saint Paul’s Bay, there is a small island called Salmanetta, and the waters from the west and the waters from the east meet behind this island. And it may have been that they assumed that the island was actually an extension of the mainland. And when they went into that area, they realized that there was water behind the island, and where those two seas met there had been the pushing together of sand that created sand bars. Whatever the significance of it is, they ran aground into the sand bars.

Verse 41 says, “Falling into a place where two seas met they ran the ship aground and the bow stuck fast and remained unmovable, but the stern was broken with the violence of the waves.” So here the bow is stuck in the sand bar, apparently a great distance from the shore and the waves, the tremendous hurricane waves are just smashing the stern of the ship and splintering it to pieces. And so there they are, stuck while the ship disintegrates.

That brings us to the fifth stage in this record, the safety. And here comes the great ending, verse 42. And notice, the soldiers were afraid of not only losing their own lives but of losing their prisoners, because when a Roman soldier lost his prisoner he had to take his prisoner’s sentence. Remember that? So he didn’t want to lose his prisoner. And so the soldiers panicked, verse 42, “The soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners lest any of them should swim out and escape.”

So they were going to slaughter Paul and all the rest of the prisoners on the ship so they wouldn’t get away. But the centurion moves in and saves Paul’s life. And all the rest of the prisoners could thank Paul, too, for having their lives saved. Verse 43, “But the centurion, willing to save Paul,” – I mean he knew this. We – we’ve got to have this guy. Without him we have no chance. – “kept them from their purpose,” – He restrained the soldiers from killing the prisoners – “commanded that they who could swim should cast themselves first into the sea and get to land.”

You know, “everybody in the pool” was the call. And if you can swim, hit it. “And the rest, some on boards and some on broken pieces of the ship.” I mean that thing was disintegrating right there and they were just grabbing onto whatever they could if they couldn’t swim. Well, you can imagine the 276 people diving into a hurricane water, grabbing boards and floating debris and trying to make it to shore. But you know something wonderful? Verse 44 ends this way. “And so it came to pass that they” – What? – “all escaped safely to the land.” That is incredible. Absolutely incredible; 276 people jumped in the water and 276 people met on the shore in a hurricane.

God was at work accomplishing His divine purpose.

MacArthur describes how He used Paul as His instrument for all those survivors:

The first thought those people must have had is, “You know, that God that Paul worships, He’s right. His word is true. He said this would happen. Look, it has happened.” You see how God not only credibly establishes His own veracity, but He establishes the veracity of His leader, Paul, doesn’t He? God keeps His word

God’s word is reliable and God established that in this marvelous incident.

More will follow about Paul’s time in Malta en route for Rome.

Next time — Acts 28:1-6

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Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 27:33-38

33 As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength,[a] for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 (We were in all 276[b] persons in the ship.) 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.

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Last week’s entry described the ship’s approach to land and the sailors’ thwarted plan to escape by dinghy.

That was in the middle of the night. At daybreak, Paul encouraged everyone to come together for a communal meal after 14 days (verse 33).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that it wasn’t as if no one had eaten anything, but they had eaten during breaks when they were trying to save the ship — and probably not very much (emphases mine):

Not that they had all, or any of them, continued fourteen days without any food, but they had not had any set meal, as they used to have, all that time; they ate very little, next to nothing. Or, “You have continued fasting, that is, you have lost your stomach; you have had no appetite at all to your food, nor any relish of it, through prevailing fear and despair.”

Paul continued, saying that they needed to build up their strength and not to worry because nothing would happen to them even if no one was tending the ship during that time (verse 34).

John MacArthur points out:

He says in verse 34, “I beseech you take some food for your health.” This means for your wholeness. It’s a word that’s used of physical salvation and of spiritual salvation in Scripture. But here it means for your physical wholeness, for your safety. “For there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.”

Now you say, “That’s a rather dumb thing. I mean who cares if you lose a hair on the way in?” But you see, that’s an old Jewish proverb. You can go back to I Samuel 14:45, II Samuel 14:11, I Kings 1:52, Luke 21:18, and in all those places you’ll find that old proverb. It meant that you’re going to be secure. It meant that you’d have complete immunity from harm. So Paul says, “You’re all going to make it. But that’s no excuse not to have a good breakfast.” So you see the balance is here between the sovereignty of God and the perfect planning of God and the responsibility of man.

Then Paul acted as priest, breaking the bread — hardtack — and giving thanks to God, breaking it and eating some (verse 35), suggesting a secular Communion.

Henry explains the importance of giving thanks by saying Grace before eating:

5. He was chaplain to the ship, and they had reason to be proud of their chaplain. He gave thanks to God in presence of them all. We have reason to think he had often prayed with Luke and Aristarchus, and what others there were among them that were Christians, that they prayed daily together; but whether he had before this prayed with the whole company promiscuously is not certain. Now he gave thanks to God, in presence of them all, that they were alive, and had been preserved hitherto, and that they had a promise that their lives should be preserved in the imminent peril now before them; he gave thanks for the provision they had, and begged a blessing upon it. We must in every thing give thanks; and must particularly have an eye to God in receiving our food, for it is sanctified to us by the word of God and prayer, and is to be received with thanksgiving. Thus the curse is taken off from it, and we obtain a covenant-right to it and a covenant-blessing upon it, 1 Timothy 4:3-5. And it is not by bread alone that man lives, but by the word of God, which must be met with prayer. He gave thanks in presence of them all, not only to show that he served a Master he was not ashamed of, but to invite them into his service too. If we crave a blessing upon our meat, and give thanks for it in a right manner, we shall not only keep up a comfortable communion with God ourselves, but credit our profession, and recommend it to the good opinion of others. 6. He set them a good example: When he had given thanks, he broke the bread (it was sea-biscuit) and he began to eat.

Those on board ship were duly encouraged and also ate (verse 36). The older translation of verse 36 better expresses their state of mind:

Then were they all of good cheer.

Luke was careful to tell us how many men were on the ship: 276 (verse 37), so Paul had persuaded a lot of people to have a good meal before the next set of events.

When they had their fill, they threw the wheat out into the sea in order to lighten the ship (verse 38). The wheat would have been from North Africa, destined for Rome, most likely. By then, it was probably soaking wet and of no use.

MacArthur explains that while they were at sea, they needed the extra weight. Nearing land, as they were at this time, they needed to dispose of it:

they never would jettison the entire cargo in the Mediterranean because they would use the remaining cargo as a ballast and to keep the ship down in the water to some extent. Also, I’m sure they felt perhaps they would be able to salvage a part of it. But by this time it was so totally sea-soaked, so totally salted that it was worthless. In addition to that, when you’re going to beach the ship you want it as light as possible so that it’s as high on the water as it can be so that you can get as close to the shore as you possibly can. So they jettisoned everything in verse 38, all of the wheat.

Let’s recap their journey so far. The first stage was setting sail from Caesarea and changing ships. The second was the stay in Fair Havens. The third was the violent storm. The fourth, coming up next week, is the shipwreck landing them on Malta.

Note that Paul has been leading them since the storm. He reminded them that they had ignored his advice to stay in Fair Havens. The centurion, Julius, and the crew had overruled him.

Once he told them how wrong they were, they put their trust in him to lead the way.

In closing, these are MacArthur’s thoughts on Paul’s leadership and what we can learn from his example today. He delivered this sermon in 1975, by the way, but it’s just as true in 2019:

… in terms of the principles that [have] here, you could title it “Leadership in Crisis,” because it really is a portrait of a man who is a leader just when he needs to be one.

It shows a man who comes through in the tremendous time of stress with all of the abilities that a great leader has to have. So it’s not just a narrative about a shipwreck. It’s also a portrait of a leader in the midst of a crisis. I was thinking, as I was thinking about that fact, that if there’s a premium on anything in our world today it’s a premium on leadership. And whether you’re talking about government or industry or economics or education or medicine or science or whatever, there’s a tremendous need for leaders or capable people who can make decisions, or people who are willing to let the buck pass to them and then handle the situation.

There was an interesting survey done in recent years of seminaries in America. And the determination of the survey was that the vast majority of all people studying for responsibilities in the church wanted to be no higher than second man because nobody wanted ultimate responsibility. And I think that’s not only true in terms of the church, but it’s very true in terms of the world. There is definitely a premium on leadership. And especially true, I think, since leadership is so susceptible to criticism.

But in the church, I think we face the same thing. There needs to be a rising up in the church of leadership and people need to accept the responsibilities that come with being a leader. Now, the world is really preoccupied with this. In fact, there is a rather constant stream of seminars and professional methodologies being presented to various and sundry communities of people to try to extract from those communities the leaders. And I’m sure they have their criteria for determining who is a leader.

The same thing is true, I think, in the terms of the church and in God’s kingdom and the things that God wants to do. There’s a real need for leaders. And I believe the Holy Spirit is seeking leadership. I believe God is calling out leaders. In all of God’s history, as you go back in the Bible, you’ll find that God moved through men. And that in every era, at every crisis time in God’s economy there were leaders that God used to bring about the effecting of His will. And whether it was Moses or Joseph or David or Abraham or Elijah or Elisha or Ezra or Nehemiah, or whether it was, in the New Testament, John the Baptist or Peter or Paul or whomever it was, at all points in time God had somebody through whom He could lead.

And the tragedy so often of the history of Israel was the tragedy of an inadequate leader, an immoral leader, an ungodly leader, or a leader who just failed to fulfill the obligations that are basic to leadership. I think that as you study the Scripture, the greatest view or insight you have of leadership is simply the example of lives of the men that are the leaders. And that is really the case here in Acts 27.

This is why it is important to pray for our current leaders as well as good future leaders, be they religious or secular.

The story continues next week as the 276 passengers reach Malta.

Next time — Acts 27:39-44

Bible boy_reading_bibleThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 27:27-32

27 When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. 28 So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms.[a] A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms.[b] 29 And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.

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Last week’s entry discussed Paul’s revelation of the vision he had of the angel of God — whom Paul worshipped and to whom he belonged — of deliverance from the storm. However, he said, they would have to reach land in order for it to happen.

Now they had been in a relentless nor’easter for a fortnight in the Adriatic — not the present day Adriatic Sea, although that is what it was called in the Ancient World — when the sailors had reason to believe they were nearing land, around midnight (verse 27).

John MacArthur explains the location (emphases mine):

Adria, in ancient times, referred to the central Mediterranean, that whole area. And they didn’t really know where they were, other than that they were somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean in the Sea Adria. Well, “as they were driven up and down in Adria” – and that gives you an idea that they had no idea where they were going because they didn’t even know if whether it was up or down – “about midnight the sailors deemed that they drew near to some country.”

Even in those days, sailors had sounding instruments of some sort to check sea depths, so those on Paul’s ship found a depth of 20 fathoms. Further on, they took another sounding and found a depth of 15 fathoms (verse 28). One fathom is approximately two yards or two meters.

It being dark, the crew feared a shipwreck, so they let four anchors down to stabilise their position and prayed for daylight (verse 29).

Matthew Henry gives us a practical application of their situation:

When those that fear God walk in darkness, and have no light, yet let them not say, The Lord has forsaken us, or, Our God has forgotten us; but let them do as these mariners did, cast anchor, and wish for the day, and be assured that the day will dawn. Hope is an anchor of the soul, sure and stedfast, entering into that within the veil. Hold fast by that, think not of putting to sea again, but abide by Christ, and wait till the day break, and the shadows flee away.

I know of a Catholic four-year college in the US that used to have a class ring with a Cross with two anchors crossed beneath it, diagonally. Those are the anchors of faith.

The sailors were understandably frightened. They decided to lower the lifeboat into the sea, climb aboard and desert the ship to somehow save themselves (verse 30).

Henry warns against such treachery:

having the command of the boat, the project was to get all of them into that, and so save themselves, and leave all the rest to perish. To cover this vile design, they pretended they would cast anchors out of the fore-ship, or carry them further off, and in order to this they let down the boat, which they had taken in (Acts 27:16,17), and were going into it, having agreed among themselves, when they were in to make straight for the shore. The treacherous seamen are like the treacherous shepherd, who flees when he sees the danger coming, and there is most need of his help, John 10:12. Thus true is that of Solomon, Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth or a foot out of joint. Let us therefore cease from man. Paul had, in God’s name, assured them that they should come safely to land, but they will rather trust their own refuge of lies than God’s word and truth.

However, Paul saw what they were doing, went directly to the centurion — Julius — and his men. Paul told them that, unless everyone remained on board, no one would be saved (verse 31).

Henry says that, even if the sailors had deserted, God would no doubt have saved Paul and everyone else in some way.

Henry then provides thoughts on the adage that is not in the Bible but is nonetheless applicable to a life of faith: God helps those who help themselves. This is Henry’s brief analysis, which is well worth remembering:

Duty is ours, events are God’s; and we do not trust God, but tempt him, when we say, “We put ourselves under his protection,” and do not use proper means, such as are within our power, for our own preservation.

Returning to the story, the centurions quickly cut the ropes tying the lifeboat to the ship, preventing any cowardly escapes by the sailors (verse 32).

MacArthur says:

I’m not sure Paul advised them to do that because they could have used that dinghy. They could have used it to get to shore later on. As it turns out they’re going to have to swim. But, apparently, the centurion thought it necessary to stop them.

I would like to cover nautical and historical information that MacArthur gives. Cauda, which he mentions, is called Gavdos today and is the southernmost Greek island. It is located just south of Crete:

Verse 27 then indicates that the sailors heard the surf pounding. It’s interesting to look at a little bit of nautical insight into this. Now mark this. The distance from Cauda, on your map, to Malta, is 476.6 miles. Now, Mediterranean navigators have supplied information that indicates that such a ship in a gale or hurricane wind would drift about 36 miles every 24 hours.

If they were fighting into the wind to try to compensate, they would be able to go about 36 miles every 24 hours. Now, if that was true, it would take them exactly 13 days, one hour and 21 minutes to be driven from Cauda to Malta. You add one day from Fair Havens to Cauda and you have the sum of fourteen. So navigational information, nautical judgments corroborate, specifically, the fact that is in fact a 14-day journey if you happen to take it in a hurricane.

Now, according to further calculations, and as I said at the beginning of this study last Lord’s day, many archeologists and many historians have studied this passage for its nautical information. And so many secular minds have been applied to this passage. But according to these calculations, it would be on the 14th day that they would have been less than three miles from the entrance of the harbor at Malta that today is called, for obvious reasons, Saint Paul’s Harbor. So the nautical people tell us that in exactly 14 days at that speed they would be three miles from the entrance to Saint Paul’s Harbor.

Now notice that Malta is a dot in the Mediterranean. You have to see here the providence of God, don’t you? There’s no other conclusion. The Scripture is so accurate. The soundings that they then took indicate that they are passing Koura. Notice that Melita, or Malta on the map, the very east point of it is called Koura, K-O-U-R-A. And by the time they would have passed Koura, they would have been about a quarter mile from shore, and that’s why they would have heard the pounding. A quarter mile from the east point shore, three miles yet to go until they would come right into the harbor, now called Saint Paul’s Bay.

That harbour is still known as St Paul’s Bay, although, strangely, the Apostle is not the town’s patron saint.

Koura is today known as Qawra, which is Maltese.

Continuing on with MacArthur’s explanation:

And do they heard the pounding of the furious surf being driven by the wind to crush the shore. Well, of course, as soon as they heard that they wanted to find out how near they were, so verse 28 says, “They sounded,” – that is they dropped sounding devises into the sea to determine the depth. – “and they found they were twenty fathoms.” A fathom is approximately six feet, so you can multiply that and figure out they’re about 120 feet. And then they went a little further it says, probably about a half an hour. “They then sounded again and found it fifteen fathoms.” And even today it’s interesting that the – that the geography around Malta supports this very text, that these are very accurate features. “And they found it fifteen fathoms,” so they were really moving toward the shore.

I have found an essay online, complete with maps, which discusses St Paul’s journey. I will write about it once I finish covering this perilous sea journey — which continues next week.

Next time — Acts 27:33-38

Pentecost2What follows are the readings for Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

As Pentecost is the Church’s birthday, the following posts explain the significance of this great feast day:

Pentecost — the Church’s birthday, with gifts from the Holy Spirit

Lutheran reflections on Pentecost

Thoughts on Pentecost: the power of the Holy Spirit

Reflections for Pentecost — a Reformed view

Pentecost Sunday — May 15, 2016 (John MacArthur explains adoption in the ancient world)

May 20, 2018: readings for Pentecost Sunday — Year B

Justin Welby’s thoughts on Pentecost (2018, Archbishop of Canterbury)

The readings for Year C offer choices for the First Reading and for the Epistle. The account of the first Pentecost from Acts 2 must be read as either one of those.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

The choices for this reading are either Acts 2 or Genesis 11 (the account of the Tower of Babel).

First choice

Acts 2:1-21

2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

2:2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.

2:6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

2:7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,

2:11 Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

2:12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

2:13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

2:15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.

2:16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

2:17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.

2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Second choice

Genesis 11:1-9

11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.

11:2 And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

11:3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.

11:4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

11:5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built.

11:6 And the LORD said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

11:7 Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”

11:8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

11:9 Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Psalm

The Psalm praises God, the giver of all good things, the author of all creation, the keeper of His covenants.

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

104:24 O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

104:25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.

104:26 There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

104:27 These all look to you to give them their food in due season;

104:28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

104:29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

104:30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.

104:31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works–

104:32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.

104:33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

104:34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.

104:35b Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!

Epistle

As I mentioned above, there are two choices.

First choice

If Acts 2:1-21 was not read earlier, it must be read as the Epistle.

Second choice

Paul tells the Romans that if the Spirit leads them, they are indeed the children of God. This is a short but important takeaway for us and should remind those of us who were confirmed to actively use the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:14-17

8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”

8:16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

8:17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Gospel

John wrote down Jesus’s many teachings during the Last Supper. Here is what He says to Philip about seeing the Father and receiving the Holy Spirit.

John 14:8-17, (25-27)

14:8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

14:12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

14:13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14:14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

14:17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

14:25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you.

14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

I hope that everyone reading this has a Pentecost Sunday of prayer and reflection. Let us remember to pray to the Holy Spirit regularly for guidance, wisdom, discernment and continued faith.

Bible readingThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 27:21-26

21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.”

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Last week’s entry introduced the violent nor’easter that wrought havoc on the crew, the centurion, his troops and the prisoners on board the ship taking Paul, himself a prisoner, to Rome. Luke was among the passengers.

Nearly everyone was without hope by this time. They felt hopelessness to the extent that they could not eat.

John MacArthur also factors in seasickness and, more importantly, the constant activity involved in staying afloat which precluded them from taking nourishment (emphases mine):

It’s terrible. Seasickness. And, of course, in addition to that they probably had pretty salty food by this time with the – with the washing over of the sea. And on top of that, the fact that they had jettisoned the cargo may have limited the supply, but mostly they were too busy to eat. By the time it was over, 14 days they’d gone without eating. Fourteen days they’d fought that storm without any food.

Paul said that they should have listened to him when they were at Fair Havens (verse 21). He had told them not to set sail. He had been overruled.

He encouraged them to ‘take heart’, because, in the end, only the ship would be lost; they would survive (verse 22).

Verse 23 is beautiful. Paul said that an angel appeared to him, an angel:

of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship,

A man of faith cannot say better than that, can he? As in so many other Christian matters, Paul shows us the way.

In older translations, the wording is as follows:

of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,

Matthew Henry has an excellent analysis of Paul’s words, equally meaningful for us today in more ways than one:

He looks upon God, [1.] As his rightful owner, who has a sovereign incontestable title to him, and dominion over him: Who I am. Because God made us and not we ourselves, therefore we are not our own but his. His we are by creation, for he made us; by preservation, for he maintains us; by redemption, for he bought us. We are more his than our own. [2.] As his sovereign ruler and master, who, having given him being, has right to give him law: Whom I serve. Because his we are, therefore we are bound to serve him, to devote ourselves to his honour and employ ourselves in his work. It is Christ that Paul here has an eye to; he is God, and the angels are his and go on his errands. Paul often calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ; he is his, and him he serves, both as a Christian and as an apostle; he does not say, “Whose we are, and whom we serve,” for most that were present were strangers to him, but, “Whose I am, and whom I serve, whatever others do; nay, whom I am now in the actual service of, going to Rome, not as you are, upon worldly business, but to appear as a witness for Christ.” Now this he tells the company, that, seeing their relief coming from his God whose he was and whom he served, they might thereby be drawn in to take him for their God, and to serve him likewise; for the same reason Jonah said to his mariners, I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who has made the sea and the dry land, Jonah 1:9.

Paul told the group what the angel had told him: he would stand before Caesar and, to that end, the lives of those sailing with him would be saved (verse 24).

John MacArthur says:

Why would they believe him? Well, maybe they might believe him. You see how God had set up his credibility because he was right once, huh? I mean the foundation was there.

And look at this. “For there stood by me this night an angel of God” – I love this – “whose I am and” – What? – “whom I serve.” Don’t you love that? That guy knew who he belonged to. “There stood by me an angel of God whose I am and whom I serve.” There’s the first commercial for the Lord. God gets dragged in the situation. You see what God wants to do? God is introducing Himself to these people. He had to get them in a position to accept the introduction.

And now, they’re looking for a God, aren’t they? Because only a God can help them. “An angel of God whose I am and whom I serve appeared to me to me and said, ‘Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” Paul you’re going to make it to Caesar and everybody with you is going to make it.

Paul repeated his message: ‘take heart’, explaining that his faith assured him of the veracity of the angel’s message (verse 25).

Then came the kicker. To reach safety, they would have to land on an island (verse 26). Imagine how that must have sounded to Paul’s listeners. They had been out in a stormy sea for nearly a fortnight and they were going to reach land? They must have been wondering how that was going to happen.

MacArthur tells us:

Well, you know that was like a needle in a haystack, hitting an island. I mean, as I say, look at the whole thing. There’s no island there but Malta. He says, “Don’t fear men, an angel came to me from God whose I am, whom I serve.” See he wants them to know that they can go to him to know about God. He establishes himself as the connection to God. And then he says, “God’s angel said to me you’re going to make it, Paul, and everybody with you is going to make it. The ship’s going to go, the cargo is going to go, but everybody’s going to make it.” Now, do you see what that is? God is setting Himself up to establish His credibility.

Now you know what happens? One of two things. That comes true or it doesn’t come true. If it doesn’t come true it wasn’t God. If it does come true, what? It was God. Do you realize that the obscurity of landing on an island, losing the ship, losing the cargo and everybody’s life being saved, could you chart the mathematical probability of that? Staggering! In the millions that all of those things would come to pass. You see, God is setting up the display of Himself. That’s the promise. But what happened? Well that’s for next week.

Indeed, it is for next week!

Next time — Acts 27:27-32

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Below are the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, June 2, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Traditionally, the Sunday between the Ascension and Pentecost is called Exaudi Sunday.

Exaudi is Latin, from the verb exaudire (modern day equivalents are the French exaucer and the Italian esaudire). It has several meanings, among them: hear, understand and discern, as well as heed, obey and, where the Lord is concerned, grant. The French version of the Catholic Mass uses exaucer a lot, as do hymns: ‘grant us, Lord’.

Exaudi Sunday is so called because of the traditional Introit, taken from Psalm 17:1. The two first words in Latin are ‘Exaudi Domine’ — ‘Hear, Lord’.

It was a sad day for the disciples, because Jesus had returned to His Father. The Holy Spirit was yet to come, although the wait would be a short one.

You can find out more about it from the following post, which includes Lutheran perspectives:

Exaudi Sunday: between the Ascension and Pentecost

Emphases below mine.

First reading

Luke, the author of Acts, continued following Paul, hence the first person narrative. After Lydia’s conversion in Philippi, Paul and Silas encountered a slave girl with an evil spirit. Her voice sounded sweet and her words true, but Paul could discern what lay behind them. Her owners complained about Paul’s driving out her evil spirit, because she could no longer make money for them. He and Silas were severely beaten and imprisoned. Then a miracle took place — as well as a conversion.

Acts 16:16-34

16:16 One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling.

16:17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.”

16:18 She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

16:19 But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.

16:20 When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews

16:21 and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.”

16:22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods.

16:23 After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely.

16:24 Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

16:26 Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.

16:27 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped.

16:28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”

16:29 The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.

16:30 Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

16:31 They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

16:32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.

16:33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.

16:34 He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

Psalm

The Psalm prophesies Christ Jesus, our source of joy and salvation.

Psalm 97

97:1 The LORD is king! Let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!

97:2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

97:3 Fire goes before him, and consumes his adversaries on every side.

97:4 His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.

97:5 The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.

97:6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.

97:7 All worshipers of images are put to shame, those who make their boast in worthless idols; all gods bow down before him.

97:8 Zion hears and is glad, and the towns of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O God.

97:9 For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.

97:10 The LORD loves those who hate evil; he guards the lives of his faithful; he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.

97:11 Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.

97:12 Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!

Epistle

Readings from Revelation continue. John reveals the words of our Lord: the Alpha and the Omega. These are the concluding verses from Revelation.

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

22:12 “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work.

22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

22:14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.

22:16 “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

22:20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

22:21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

Gospel

John recorded the final teachings that Jesus gave the Twelve at the Last Supper. What follows is the conclusion of His High Priestly Prayer.

John 17:20-26

17:20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,

17:21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

17:22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,

17:23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

17:24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

17:25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.

17:26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

I added another highlight in John 17:24, because God the Father designates — unbeknownst to us — those who are to be saved. John’s Gospel has several such references. This is but one of them.

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Bible oldThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 27:13-20

The Storm at Sea

13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda,[a] we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear,[b] and thus they were driven along. 18 Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. 19 And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

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Last week’s entry discussed the decision of the Roman crew to set sail for Phoenix — Phenice — in Crete to spend the winter. Paul had warned against it, but Fair Havens was not a place where they could spend the winter, despite its gentle name.

Therefore, centurion, crew, prisoners, cargo, Paul and Luke — with possibly another of their companions — set sail along the sheltered coastline of Crete, helped by a gentle southerly wind (verse 13).

Then, a violent wind from the north east struck (verse 14). The ship was no match for it, so they had no choice but to let the wind control the ship (verse 15).

Matthew Henry posits that they might have been near Phenice at the time but God had other plans for them (emphases mine):

It is probable that they were very near the heaven of Phenice when this tempest arose, and thought they should presently be in a quiet haven, and were pleasing themselves with the thought of it, and wintering there, and lo, of a sudden, they are in this distress. Let us therefore always rejoice with trembling, and never expect a perfect security, nor a perpetual security, till we come to heaven.

His description of the storm is excellent:

The ship was exceedingly tossed (Acts 27:18); it was kicked like a football from wave to wave; its passengers (as it is elegantly described, Psalms 107:26,27) mount up to the heavens, go down again to the depths, reel to and fro, stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. The ship could not possibly bear up into the wind, could not make her way in opposition to the wind; and therefore they folded up their sails, which in such a storm would endanger them rather than to them any service, and so let the ship drive, Not whither it would, but whither it was impelled by the impetuous waves …

John MacArthur says that the gentle southerly wind they encountered was often the precursor for a northeaster, the calm before the storm:

“Well the south wind is nice and we’ll at least stay along the edge of Crete and if we don’t get all the way to Rome, at least we can hang in there at Phenice. Then you have one of the biggest words in this whole story. Verse 14, “But,” – got to watch those gentle south winds. – “Not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind called Euroclydon.” That was the sailors’ term for a nor’easter. It comes from two words, one Greek, one Latin. The Greek word is Euros and it means an east wind. The Latin word is aquilo and it means a north wind.

It would come down from Asia, just blowing down and it was a severe wind. They gave it the name Euroclydon because it was so fierce and it was one of the greatest feared winds of all winds. It was a wind of hurricane or typhoon proportions. They were in a hurricane. They were in that little thing. It was like a pod floating on the ocean, bobbing up and down and being pummeled and beaten by the northeast wind. This was a typhoon. This was a hurricane with all of the concurrent airflow that comes together and swirls the clouds and swirls the sea. This is what they were in the midst of.

And you all have seen on television hurricane somebody, hurricane Bertha or Edna or Agnes or something and you know what it’s like. That’s exactly what this little wooden thing got trapped in. And the little gentle south wind wafted them on was replaced by a threatening treacherous, deadly nor’easter.

The wind drove them temporarily to a place of shelter, the island of Cauda — present day Gavdos, south of Crete — where they were able to secure the ship’s lifeboat with some difficulty (verse 16).

After hoisting the lifeboat successfully, they then secured the ship’s structure and lowered the ‘gear’ — whether anchor or mainsail — hoping to avoid the Syrtis (verse 17).

MacArthur explains verse 17 in more detail. At this point, they had sailed only 23 miles from Fair Havens:

there was a great fear among all those who sailed the Mediterranean. And the fear was of Euroclydon because Euroclydon sent ships to the graveyard known as the Greater Surtis.

The Greater Surtis – archeologists have studied and dug up there many things for many years – was the graveyard of ships. Whenever a great northeastern wind would come of hurricane or typhoon dimensions, it would blast ships into the Greater Surtis. And it would reef them there and shatter them and smash them, and lives would be lost there on the coast of North Africa. And so they were afraid. They had two options: if the hurricane didn’t dump them into the sea and capsize the ship, then the hurricane would drive them into the graveyard of ships known as the Greater Surtis.

Then they did three things.

The first thing they did was to secure the boat. Every sailing vessel had a dingy. And a dingy doesn’t have to be super small, but it was a small enough boat so that when you harbored a boat you could get in it and get to shore. It was a very important thing to have. It was also a rescue boat. In any case – in the case that the larger ship would break up, this was a lifeboat. It was very important to hang on to that thing. In sailing, normally, the dingy was attached to the stern of the boat by a rope and just pulled along. But immediately upon any stormy weather they would have to get that thing inside or it would be swamped with water and it would drag. And, eventually, it would sever the rope and it would be lost. And so with great difficulty they first thing they did was get the swamp dingy into the main ship. They probably swung the yardarm out and used it as a hoist. And they all worked hard, but they got it in.

The second thing they did – and this is something you may never have heard of – they frapped the ship … Verse 17 says, “When they had hoisted it,” – hoisted the dingy in – “they used fraps undergirding,” – or frapping – “the ship.”

… in the days that we’re talking about they built ships without the use of bolts. In other words, when the planks ran along the side, they couldn’t run large girders down and then bolt the planks to the girders because they didn’t have any bolts. And the only way they could really secure it, they used pitch. They would use anything they could. I was reading, recently, a tremendously interesting article in National Geographic about the Phoenician sailing boats and how they used to cover them with certain kinds of things that would seal them. Well, that’s fine until you get into a hurricane.

When you get into a hurricane and you’re in a single-masted vessel, there is no distribution of stress. That is in a multi-sailed vessel, the stress is distributed all over the entire hull. In a single-masted situation, the stress is directed at one area and it begins to split the ship. And it will literally splinter the entire hull unless something is done. So there were cables that were wrapped around these hulls. And when stress came they would winch these cables tight. Just like wrapping the ship up with rope in order to keep it secure. And so they diligently set about to frap the ship or undergird the ship.

The third thing they did, “fearing lest they should fall into the quicksand.” Now you say, “Wait a minute, quicksand in the middle of the Mediterranean?” Right. That’s another one of those terrific translations. The Greek word is Surtis. They were afraid of winding up on the Surtis. … Here’s it’s the form surtin, that ending, but the same word. And it probably means the reef, the shoal, the sandbar. It can have a reference to the sandy beach where it could be dumped and then smashed. And they had a fear of this.

So what were they going to do? It says, “They struck sail,” in the King James. What it literally says in the Greek is they lowered the gear. I think what it means is they dropped the mainsail. Well, whatever they did it worked.

Henry has a simpler explanation for undergirding:

They bound the ship under the bottom of it with strong cables, to keep it from bulging in the extremity of the tempest.

The next day, they jettisoned their cargo (verse 18) to lighten the ship. They kept some food with them, as we will see later in the chapter.

On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard (verse 19).

This was a desperate situation. Add to this the fact that the violence of the storm was such that, having seen no daylight or starlight for ‘many days’, they abandoned all hope (verse 20).

They were cold. They were wet. They could not bear to eat. Their nerves were frayed. They were afraid. They had no light. They could do nothing but allow this storm drive them to an unknown destination.

They were no longer in control — of anything.

Henry points out that Jesus might have chosen seafaring men as Apostles for a reason:

See what hardships those often undergo who are much at sea, besides the hazards of life they run; and yet to get gain there are still those who make nothing of all this; and it is an instance of divine Providence that it disposes some to this employment, notwithstanding the difficulties that attend it, for the keeping up of commerce among the nations, and the isles of the Gentiles particularly; and Zebulun can as heartily rejoice in his going out as Issachar in his tents. Perhaps Christ therefore chose ministers from among seafaring men, because they had been used to endure hardness.

He also puts forth an interesting question: why did Paul not quell the storm? He then answers it by saying that no apostolic miracle was ever wrought for personal comfort. All of their miracles gave glory to God:

Why did not Paul, by the power of Christ, and in his name, lay this storm? Why did he not say to the winds and waves, Peace, be still, as his Master had done? Surely it was because the apostles wrought miracles for the confirmation of their doctrine, not for the serving of a turn for themselves or their friends.

MacArthur says the desperation that the storm wrought showed that God was controlling everything here. It was probable that Paul, and possibly Luke, knew everything would turn out for the best, according to His will:

Now God says, “That’s exactly what I want. No one has any resource, no one has any hope, no one can turn to anybody or anything. You are hopeless. Now I will announce My presence.” Beautiful! One of the principles that God has used over and over and over again in the word is that God comes in response to man’s absolute hopelessness, right, and announces who He is. And He had just the man. He had his man, Paul, who was probably just going along with it all saying, “Well Lord when is the time? It’s going to be soon, I imagine.”

In fact, through the storm, God was leading them very close to Sicily — to Malta:

Isn’t it interesting that with the sail down, with the storm swirling about them everywhere and the inability to see the stars for the clouds, they couldn’t see anything day or night. Which means they couldn’t what? They couldn’t navigate, they sailed on a direct course to the harbor of Malta. Now, you look at that little dot there and you figure out who was steering that ship. Amazing. This is all in the plan of God.

Here is a map of Gavdos. Here is a map of Malta. If you look to the right — eastwards — on the map of Malta, you can see the southernmost Greek island of Crete, our Apostle’s starting point.

However, no one on-board knew that, and the sense of hopelessness continued.

Next time — Acts 27:21-26

What follows are the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 26, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

Luke, the author of Acts, was from Troas, in the western part of Asia Minor. He met Paul at the time of his journey to Macedonia. Paul had originally wanted to go further eastward into Asia Minor, but the Holy Spirit intervened. Paul ended up travelling westward from Asia Minor to Macedonia. Luke joined him, hence the first person narrative. Once in Macedonia, they never met the man in Paul’s vision. Instead, they met a woman, Lydia, a purple cloth merchant. This is the origin of the church in Philippi.

Acts 16:9-15

16:9 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

16:10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

16:11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis,

16:12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days.

16:13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.

16:14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.

16:15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

Psalm

This Psalm foretells the creation of the Church and the joining of Jews and Gentiles into one joyful flock. ‘Selah’ means ‘heed these words’, ‘pay attention’.

Psalm 67

67:1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah

67:2 that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.

67:3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

67:4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah

67:5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

67:6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.

67:7 May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.

Epistle

Readings from Revelation continue. John prophesies the New Jerusalem, the Water of Life, the Tree of Life and the Lamb of God.

Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5

21:10 And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

21:22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

21:24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.

21:25 Its gates will never be shut by day–and there will be no night there.

21:26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

21:27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb

22:2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

22:3 Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him;

22:4 they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

22:5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Gospel

There is a choice of two readings from John’s Gospel.

The first is from Jesus’s discourse during the Last Supper, wherein He says that He must return to the Father, in order that God may send the Holy Spirit. Ascension Day is this coming Thursday, therefore, the reading is particularly apposite.

The second is the moving miraculous healing of the infirm man at Bethesda. No one helped him into the healing waters of the pool. However, Jesus knew and had mercy on the man.

First choice

John 14:23-29

14:23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

14:25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you.

14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

14:28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.

14:29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

Second choice

John 5:1-9

5:1 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

5:2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes.

5:3 In these lay many invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed.

5:5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.

5:6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

5:7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”

5:8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.”

5:9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.

Our Lord’s miracles involved not only physical or mental healing but also spiritual healing. We can apply these as lessons in faith: a belief in Jesus as Lord heals our troubled souls.

Bible openThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 27:9-12

Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast[a] was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.

———————————————————————————————————————

The first eight verses of Acts 27 describe the beginning of Paul’s and Luke’s voyage to Rome from Caesarea. Festus, the Roman governor, allowed Luke, the author of Acts, to accompany his good friend Paul on the journey. The centurion in charge of the ship, Julius, was also well disposed towards the Apostle.

The weather at this time of year, late summer, was unpredictable for sea voyages. In mid-September, seafaring became dangerous. By mid-November, sea voyages stopped until early the following year.

They had spent a few weeks at Fair Havens — Kalous Limenas — near the city of Lasea waiting for better prospects. Now, the Fast — the Jewish Day of Atonement — was already over. This would have been in the early autumn, and it was time to make a decision whether to stay or go (verse 9).

John MacArthur explains this next part of the voyage (emphases mine):

Now we come to stage two. If stage one is the start, stage two is the stay. Here they are in Fair Havens, taking on supplies and waiting for a change of winds. And they’re getting anxious to go to Rome. I mean they want to get to Rome, you see, before the season ends. They want to get to Rome before the winter comes. You see what happens is if they can’t get to Rome, then this fellow who is running the ship is going to have to take care of the whole crew for the winter. And that means three to four months in harbor before they can get off again.

In addition to that, to be stuck in Fair Havens would be absolute disaster. It was open, it was exposed to the winds of the sea. It was not a commodious harbor, as it says in verse 12. It wasn’t a good place to spend the winter. And nothing was happening there; no fun and games in Fair Havens. Plus there was a sort of a desire to make a little money on the deal. If the ship had been owned, indeed, as some indicate by its captain, he would have wanted to get his supplies there as fast as possible and get his money and not have to spend the whole winter paying these people for idleness. And so they wanted to gamble and they figured we’re going to try to make it. If we could just get a change of wind we’ll take off.

Now verse 9. “Now when much time was spent,” – Now, we don’t know how much time, but plenty of time. Maybe weeks went by, maybe more. Very likely at least a month – “and when sailing was now dangerous,” — Now notice. If they got there sometime at the end of August, and a month passed, the notation that Luke makes now is they’re in the dangerous season. They’re in the period of time when to sail is dangerous. Then he adds – “because the fast was already passed.” The fast is referenced to the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the Jewish fast.

If you know anything about Jewish history you’ll remember that Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of the 7th month of the Jewish calendar, which is the month of Tishri. That falls into the Roman calendar at the end of September or the beginning of October. In A.D. 59 we know, historically, that Yom Kippur was on October 5th. If this is the year, then A.D. 59, it is already after October 5th. They are well into the dangerous season for trying to cross the open sea. Any attempt now would really be a gamble.

Paul, having been a passenger on many ships during his ministry, warned them that leaving Fair Havens would result in a perilous voyage, causing not only injury and loss of cargo but also the ship — and lives (verse 10).

However, Julius, the centurion, was more interested in what the ship’s pilot and captain had to say on the matter (verse 11).

Matthew Henry’s commentary elaborates:

They would not be advised by Paul in this matter, Acts 27:11. They thought him impertinent in interposing in an affair of this nature, who did not understand navigation; and the centurion to whom it was referred to determine it, though himself a passenger, yet, being a man in authority, takes upon him to overrule, though he had not been oftener at sea perhaps than Paul, nor was better acquainted with these seas, for Paul had planted the gospel in Crete (Titus 1:5), and knew the several parts of the island well enough. But the centurion gave more regard to the opinion of the master and owner of the ship than to Paul’s; for every man is to be credited in his own profession ordinarily: but such a man as Paul, who was so intimate with Heaven, was rather to be regarded in seafaring matters than the most celebrated sailors. Note, Those know not what dangers they run themselves into who will be governed more by human prudence than by divine revelation. The centurion was very civil to Paul (Acts 27:3), and yet would not be governed by his advice. Note, Many will show respect to good ministers that will not take their advice, Ezekiel 33:31.

MacArthur explains the pilot and captain relationship. In his translation, the words used are ‘master’ and ‘owner’:

Now, those two words master and owner are very difficult to translate because they are obscure words. The best translation of the word master, in my mind, is sailing master or pilot. This is the man who was responsible for steering and navigating. And the word owner is not really the word for owner but probably should be translated captain. So that the thing would say the pilot and the captain. Now in some cases, the captain was an owner, if in fact it was a private vessel. But if it was one of the imperial fleet grain ships he would be simply the captain.

The word is used only here. It’s not the common word for owner, but has to do probably with him as the captain. And if he was the owner he probably was also the captain, but it seems best to see it perhaps as a Roman ship, and these two would be the sailing master or the pilot and the captain. And the centurion agrees with them. And you really can’t blame the guy. I mean they were the experts, right? You can’t blame the centurion for believing the navigator and the captain. And so he does.

Because Fair Havens was not a destination in which to spend the winter, the majority decided to sail to the port of Phoenix — Phenice, present day Lutro — on the island of Crete to spend the winter there (verse 12).

Phenice is a derivation of ‘palm tree’.

Henry says that the ship’s crew would have made the decision to set sail. He also has more information on Phenice and the appeal of Crete as a winter destination:

Some of the ship’s crew, or of the council that was called to advise in this matter, were for staying there, rather than venturing to sea now that the weather was so uncertain: it is better to be safe in an incommodious harbour than to be lost in a tempestuous sea. But they were outvoted when it was put to the question, and the greater part advised to depart thence also; yet they aimed not to go far, but only to another port of the same island, here called PheniceIt is here described to lie towards the south-west and north-west. Probably the haven was between the two promontories or juttings-out of land into the sea, one of which pointed to the north-west and the other to the south-west, by which it was guarded against the east winds. Thus hath the wisdom of the Creator provided for the relief and safety of those who go down to the sea in ships, and do business in great waters. In vain had nature provided for us the waters to sail on, if it had not likewise provided for us natural harbours to take shelter in.

MacArthur says:

Phoenicia is the ancient name of the coastline of Israel. That’s not the translation that’s best. It should be … Phenice, which was a port 40 miles down Crete. Forty miles further along the island was the port of Phenice …

Historians tell us that anciently the only place in the winter that was a comfortable place to stay was on Crete.

The story continues next week. Was there ever a time, post-conversion, when Paul erred in his speech? No.

Next time — Acts 27:13-20

What follows are readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 19, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Emphases below mine.

First reading

This scene in Jerusalem took place after Peter had converted the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household (here, here, here, here, here and here). The first 18 verses of Acts 18 are not included in the Lectionary readings that the Episcopal Church uses, so I wrote about them as being ‘Forbidden Bible Verses’. Fortunately, they are part of the standard readings for other denominations:

Forbidden Bible Verses — Acts 11:1-18

Acts 11:1-18

11:1 Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God.

11:2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him,

11:3 saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?”

11:4 Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying,

11:5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me.

11:6 As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air.

11:7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’

11:8 But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

11:9 But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’

11:10 This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven.

11:11 At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were.

11:12 The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house.

11:13 He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter;

11:14 he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’

11:15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning.

11:16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

11:17 If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”

11:18 When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Psalm

This beautiful Psalm calls upon all creation to abundantly praise God.

Psalm 148

148:1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

148:2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!

148:3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!

148:4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.

148:6 He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

148:7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,

148:8 fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

148:9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

148:10 Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

148:11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

148:12 Young men and women alike, old and young together!

148:13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.

148:14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!

Epistle

In the continuing series of readings from Revelation, we move from John’s imagery of Christ Jesus as the Lamb of God to the ‘Alpha and the Omega’ and the ‘new Jerusalem’.

Revelation 21:1-6

21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

21:2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;

21:4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

21:5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

21:6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

Gospel

This took place at the Last Supper, after Jesus dismissed Judas.

John 13:31-35

13:31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.

13:32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

13:33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is another set of uplifting readings for Eastertide, which should give us continued joy about our Lord: the Resurrection and the Life.

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