November 18, 2012
Background Scripture: Acts 28:1 – 10
Lesson Passage: Acts 28:1 – 10
One irony of ministry is that we don’t necessarily get to do it when everything is going well. Quite the contrary, we are often prepared for ministry by first enduring hardship and depending on God for the outcome of our situation. As Paul and his fellow travelers escaped the shipwreck and made their way to land, the opportunity for ministry lay ahead of them. This was not the time for them to exhale and relax. According to Luke, the natives on the island of Melita extended great hospitality to them. Seeing the wet and cold strangers who had barely escaped disaster apparently motivated the locals to show compassion. They built a fire for them to warm by and dry out. Paul assisted by gathering wood for the fire. For his troubles, a poisonous snake came out of the wood that was laid on the fire and bit Paul’s hand. Paul shook the snake off into the fire and continued to function as normal. This amazed the islanders who saw the incident as fate exacting vengeance on Paul even after his escape from the shipwreck. After seeing that he was not hurt by the poisonous snake, they concluded that Paul was a god. Paul healed the father of the head islander. Afterwards, they brought others to him and he healed them as well. This caused the islanders to lavish great honors and necessities upon the strangers who had come to their island. When Paul and his group were ready to depart and continue their journey to Rome, the islanders sent them away with the goods that they needed. The transition from being loss at sea in a storm to being stranded on the island of Melita, afforded Paul the opportunity to minister to the islanders—perhaps in a way they had never experienced. Although Paul endured many hardships, ministry was made possible in the midst of the hardships because Paul availed himself of the opportunity. I believe he had every right to mope and complain after all he had been through. Whether he moped and complained is not revealed to us in the scripture. The scripture does reveal that he used the opportunity to minister to the needs of others. As he ministered to the needs of the islanders, they also ministered to their needs as well. This is another irony of ministry. We receive the most for ourselves as we give the most to the righteous cause of others. On the one hand, Melita appears to be an island that served as a sanctuary for those who survived the storm and the shipwreck. On the other hand, Melita was a mission field that God had especially prepared Paul to serve in. Paul and his fellow travelers needed to be rescued from the fury of the storm-tossed sea so God brought them to Melita as a sanctuary. The islanders on Melita needed to be rescued from the fury of a sinful existence so God brought a missionary to them that could demonstrate through signs and wonders that God is the eternal sanctuary. During the extent of this encounter, the islanders ministered to the needs of Paul and his fellow travelers. During the same time, Paul ministered to the islanders on Melita.
Robert C. Hudson
November 9, 2012