They Encounter a Massive Storm
When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale. We sailed along the sheltered side of a small island named Cauda, where with great difficulty we hoisted aboard the lifeboat being towed behind us. Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind. The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard.
The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”
About midnight on the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were being driven across the Sea of Adria, the sailors sensed land was near. They dropped a weighted line and found that the water was 120 feet deep. But a little later they measured again and found it was only 90 feet deep. At this rate they were afraid we would soon be driven against the rocks along the shore, so they threw out four anchors from the back of the ship and prayed for daylight. Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship. dBut Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.” So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away.
Just as day was dawning, Paul urged everyone to eat. “You have been so worried that you haven’t touched food for two weeks,” he said. “Please eat something now for your own good. For not a hair of your heads will perish.” Then he took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it. Then everyone was encouraged and began to eat— all 276 of us who were on board. After eating, the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard.Acts 27:13-38
Now we have before us the account of the storm and ultimately the shipwreck which Paul refers to elsewhere.
Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent in the open sea.2 Corinthians 11:25
holding onto faith and a good conscience. By rejecting these, some have suffered shipwreck regarding their faith.1 Timothy 1:19
Now is the time to read this passage over and over and dig into the text to see what questions come to mind. Read it a number of times to let the event Luke described sink in. One person has asked a question related to the last Gem. A question which came to mind as he read through the account of why the ship left Fair Havens and headed to Phoenix. As he said, “It seems a little silly that they left Fair Havens to try to get to Phoenix. The saying ‘any port in a storm’ comes to mind, Ian”. I agree with him. The description of Phoenix having a good harbour with only a southwest and northwest exposure he queried. He asked, “Why didn’t Luke say exposed to the west? If it included southwest and northwest, it would be exposed to the west as well.”
The EBC commentary has an interesting entry which might help to explain this description of Luke’s. Dummelow describes the harbour as being open to the west. He claims the place was also called Lutro. He claimed it was the only safe harbour on the south coast of Crete to all winds experienced there. The bay around the harbour formed a semi-circle with one half looking southwest and the other half looking southwest. There is some discrepancy between the translations on this verse depending on the interpretation of the Greek prepositions. The modern port of Phineka Dummelow claims is likely to be the port Luke referred to.
The RSV interprets verse 12 as follows: “And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to put to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, looking northeast and southeast, and winter there.” The harbour at Lutro, modern day Phineka, is separated by a spit of land in the middle called Muros, which divides the bay effectively into two harbours. Phineka is open to winds from the southwest while Lutro is open to winds from the northwest. Winds blowing directly west blow on to the Muros spit. The curve of the bay protects the arms of the harbour from the winds directly for the west. It seems that Luke’s description was highly accurate.
Now it’s time to pay close attention to Luke’s account of being blown by the typhoon toward the coast of Africa. Clearly the lull in the weather when a light wind blew from the south was enough of a temptation to attempt to get to Phoenix (Phineka). The south breeze would keep them against Crete and prevent them being blown out on the open sea of the Mediterranean. But alas it was not to be. Read on and ponder as you huddle down inside, sheltered against the weather. It will help you imagine you are on the voyage with Paul.
You can be in the storm but don’t allow the storm to get in you.Judah Smith
Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake (or sea) with no storms. It comes from having Jesus in the boat.J. Ortberg
Don’t let the storm eclipse your view of Jesus.Ian Vail
The Lord will either calm your storm, or allow it to rage while He calms you!Rick Godwin
Don’t confuse your path with your destination. Just because it’s stormy now, doesn’t mean you aren’t headed for sunshine.Kaleb Lucman
Fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.Anon
There are some lessons best learned in a storm.Ian Vail