God’s People, part 279: Publius

Read Acts 28:1-10

“Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for giving humans such authority.”  (Matthew 9:8, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 279: Publius. The last devotion in this series focused on Paul’s journey on a ship that departed from Jerusalem under the command of Captain Julius. Paul, of course, was a prisoner who was being sent to Rome since he had appealed his case to the emperor. As has been mentioned, this did not mean that Nero Caesar would hear his case, but that his case would be heard the Roman court.

Julius had taken good care of Paul and showed him an exorbinent amount of trust and respect. In fact, he had so much trust that he had let Paul leave the ship to spend time with friends, which would’ve cost Julius his life had the prisoner escaped. Paul didn’t, however, proving that Julius was right to trust him.  During a major storm, Paul even comforted Julius and his crew by sharing the vision God had given him of their safety. While the ship wrecked, every last member of the crew, and all aboard, survived.

The Scripture for today picks up there. Paul, Julius and the crew find themselves safe on the island of Malta. The people on that island were incredibly kind to them while they were there. There was one incident, however, that caused the islanders to judge Paul as someone who may be under God’s curse. Paul was gathering sticks to put on the fire, when a poisonous snake popped out and bit his wrist. This was clearly a bad omen to the people of Malta and, truth be told, it should have been bad news to Paul too; however, it wasn’t. Instead, Paul shook the snake off and, hours later, was still alive and no worse for wear. The local folks changed their mind about Paul. Instead of being under God’s curse, this Paul must be God.

Following that Paul and his companions stayed at the estate of Publius, who was the chief official of the island. Publius took care of them during their stay, which lasted three days. As it turned out, Publius’ father was ill and, upon praying over and laying hands upon him, Publius’ father was healed. It was a miracle.

If the snake wasn’t enough to cause Paul to become famous on Malta, healing Publius’ father did. After hearing about that, all of the sick people of the town came to Paul to be healed and, as might be expected, they were healed. These miracles blessed the people of Malta so much that Paul and his fellow travelers were showered with honors and Julius, his crew, Paul, and his companions were given everything they needed to complete their trip.

This should challenge us. First, it was not Paul who performed the miracles; rather, it was God’s power working through Paul. How many of us open ourselves to the presence and the power of God? Second, miracles always serve a greater purpose than the miracle itself. In fact, miracles are a means to God’s end. Miracles reveal God to the people who experience them and they draw people closer into relationship with God. This is always the case in the Bible.

Finally, while we cannot be certain that Publius converted to the Christian faith (though there is a long-standing tradition that he did), it is clear that Publius was profoundly affected by the miracle as was the entire island of Malta. As Christians, we should reflect the times in which God has worked a miracle in our lives through someone else. We should reflect the times in which God worked miracles through us. We sould also pray that God may continue to use us as a vessel for His miracles. Let us be open to the Holy Spirit and be guided by God to be vessels of God’s miracles.

“I believe that miracles happen every day. Every person is a miracle. Every moment is a miracle. If only we can open our eyes, we’ll see God’s love everywhere.” – Bo Sanchez

Lord, what would you have me do today? Show me and I will obey. Amen.

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