“Out of the frying pan and into the fire!” Or so it must have seemed for an instant for Paul. Having survived a huge storm at sea, he was then bitten by a poisonous snake and expected to die. Then he remembered the prophecy that Jesus had given him, plus the promises in Mark 16:18, and shook the snake off back into the fire. He was fine!
The inhabitants of Malta were very hospitable, as was their leader, whose father was extremely ill and bedridden. Paul first prayed, and then he laid hands on him to heal him. I think that the prayer was for faith, and the laying on of hands was the exercise of that faith. Whilst he was at it, he healed all the other sick people on the island. Miracles unlock hearts, and the islanders were even more generous and helpful after that. The ship’s company wintered for about three months there.
Then they transferred to another ship that was bound for Rome, landing at Puteoli, which Rome’s main seaport – although 75 miles distant. (Rather like ‘London Luton Airport’, then!) The churches heard that Paul was arriving and gave him a great welcome. As a Roman citizen, Paul was allowed to live privately in a rented house but guarded by a soldier. He invited all kinds of people as guests, to listen to the gospel, including the local Jewish community, who were very curious to know the message the Paul was bringing from the scriptures about their Messiah.
To those who rejected his gospel, Paul quoted the well-known passage from Isaiah 6:9-10 which had also been quoted by Jesus against the Jerusalem Jews. On the other hand, Paul continued, “I want you to know that God’s salvation had been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” (v30).
The proof of that statement was seen during the next two years, when Paul was able to proclaim the gospel of Christ to all and sundry, without anyone hindering him. He was in the centre of the empire and God had opened a ‘door’ of opportunity wide for salvation to come to Rome. Paul practically wrenched it off its hinges!
The Book of Acts ends rather abruptly and in an open-ended way. I think that this is a deliberate literary tool. Paul was later set free after waiting two years for his trial and continued to plant churches around the known world. He may even have travelled to Spain.
But the other reason that it is open-ended is that we are supposed to continue the work of the Holy Spirit in building the Kingdom of God, by growing Christ’s church. The unwritten chapters of Acts will possibly turn out to be even more exciting and dramatic than the first twenty-eight. For you and I are called to be “…a letter from Christ, the result of Paul’s ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3).
Let us go and be history-makers, then!