“He preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 28:31
Shipwrecked on the island of Malta Paul continued to demonstrate that God was honoring his commitment to Him. Bit by a viper the people believed he was being punished by the gods and fully expected him to fall over dead. When he did not they changed their minds and decided he was a god himself! He healed their sick and they cared for him and the whole shipwrecked group until their departure for Rome some three months later (after winter!)
The story ends rather abruptly, as does the book of Acts (how appropriate and I didn’t even plan it that way 28 GMUs ago, thinking that it would end on our last day together for the semester!) The final chapter tells of his “house arrest” which really seems to imply that he could come and go from his own rented home with only a guard there to watch over things. He preached, he taught, he met with the Roman Jews and at least got some support from them.
History picks up where the book of Acts ends and tells of at least two actual imprisonments, the final one in the Mammertine Prison next door to the Roman Forum. I’ve been in the cell in that prison where tradition has Paul spending some of his final day before being beheaded- by the Romans- after being AGAIN falsely accused, this time in an attempt by the faltering world power of Rome and their panicking leader Nero to distract attention from them to a “scapegoat” like Paul. It was from that Mammertine Prison that Paul wrote some of his letters we find in the New Testament (i.e. 1 and 2 Timothy- some of my favorite books in the Bible.)
I sometimes get distracted myself by the Hollywood version of so many stories where the “good guy” always wins in the end. But in this story the “good guy” dies and the bad guys appear to win, at least for a while. It just doesn’t seem fair; just like life doesn’t always seem fair. But I found two contrasting statements in this final chapter that help me maintain a balanced look at life and my response to it.
1. The rejecting Jews who started all this trouble for Paul were defined as a people whose “hearts had become calloused.”
2. Paul on the other hand was described as a person who, with boldness, “preached the kingdom of God and taught about Jesus.”
They all started the same (remember Paul’s argument where he reminded his accusers that NO ONE had been a more devout Jew than he.) They all started the same, but some chose to “harden their hearts” until they became calloused to the message of Jesus. And ONE chose to “give his heart and his life” 100% to his Master and his Lord. And THAT made all the difference. They all eventually died, but one died with hope and a purpose and the others just died, including Nero a few years later. I guess what I choose in life may not guarantee me anything more on this earth necessarily but it sure does guarantee me more in the end! I’m glad the stories in the Bible don’t all end, “and they all lived happily ever after,” because my life does not always seem to relate. UNLESS the “ever after” becomes much more to me than just what this world has in store. I may only find out if I, like Paul, give 100% of my heart and life to my Master and my Lord again today.
Have a great day deciding if it’s worth it, but as for me I think I’m going to keep going for it,