Friday, May 19, 2017
Acts 27:33 Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.” 35 After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves. 37 (We were in all two hundred seventy-six persons in the ship.) 38 After they had satisfied their hunger, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.
Paul and his traveling companions were on a ship that was bound to sink. They had been weathering storms for days and were now weakened from the onslaught. What was to come of them? Paul had been communicating with the Lord and again, reveals what it means to be a Christian in the midst of ordinary circumstances. He went to the Lord and there gained wisdom and strength, as well as a promise that no one would lose their life. Just to make certain of this they would need to have a roll-call. This would have included all sailors, prisoners and soldiers. Every single person on the ship was accounted for and there were two hundred seventy-six persons. Every single one, precious in the eyes of God.
They all ate and then threw off everything that was weighing down the ship. They had probably been using the grain/food for weights and now that they were going to be released, they may as well eat and get some strength. Luke presents the breaking of bread as a vision of the last supper, but mixed with a hearty meal for all. Again, it is this mixing of the Christian life with the ordinary. For one, the meal becomes a dependence upon the sustenance found in Christ, for others it is the physical energy of food. In reality it becomes a mix of the two that leads to the salvation of them all. Believers and non-believers tied inextricably to one another in the crisis of this storm. It is not just the Christians who are to be saved, but all two hundred seventy-six.
The ship breaks up and all the people eventually find a way to shore, whether they knew how to swim or not. The promise of God is revealed the headcount is repeated and all two hundred seventy-six are present.
There is intentionality in knowing the number two hundred and seventy-six, for the number represents the lives of individuals who are important in the eyes of God. Every human being, whether a believer or not, is precious in the sight of God. In this circumstance, God used the presence of three believers (we don’t know if there were more) to save the lives of two hundred and seventy-three more. They had to suffer the consequences of the choices of secular leaders so that they could help to save others. Paul, Luke and Aristarchus are not heard to complain in their situation, but are there, bringing leadership and guidance in the midst of a crisis. They don’t ask for God to save them alone, but they are willing servants to bring everyone to salvation.
We find the believers practicing the Christian life in the midst of those who have no idea what they’re doing. The imagery of the last supper while others are feasting on anything they can find is almost unimaginable, and yet it is a vision of where the Christian should find themselves in this world. We are to become the broken bread and shed blood for the world, not practicing our spirituality in isolation, but in the middle of the mess. We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices for the world that is drowning around us. The three, for the two hundred and seventy-three. In helping to save others, Paul, Luke and Aristarchus are saved.
Living the Christian life in the center of the messes of this world will not be pleasant, but we are called to follow Christ. He gave his life for the many. For how many are we willing to suffer?
Lord, your word can challenge my heart and thinking. Help me to be willing to live for you sacrificially. Amen.