Hi! My name is Julius. I work for the Roman government as commander of a battalion. They call me a “centurion” because I usually have around 100 men in the cohort under my authority and care. As one of my assigned duties, my cohort and I often escort prisoners. I want to tell you about the time I had the craziest-ever experience just doing my job.
Governor Festus had put in a request for someone to take this religious radical named Paul to Rome to be tried in Caesar’s court. Apparently, he had been stirring up trouble with the Jews, and everyone knows Caesar doesn’t like to hear about trouble in his provinces. When I met Paul, I took a liking to him immediately. I could tell he was a “straight-shooter;” there was no pretense about him. We also had his personal physician, Dr. Luke, along for the ride, as well as a number of other prisoners. I was looking forward to an easy assignment, a quick sail up the coast to Rome, where I could take a few days off and buy my wife some Italian leather sandals she’d been asking for.
The first leg of the journey went just as planned. The winds were up a bit, but the crew did a good job and we made it to a place called Fair Havens, where we all expected we might settle in for the winter. Unlike most prisoners, Paul was always out and about chatting up the crew and talking about his faith in God, so we got to know each other pretty well. When the time came to set sail, Paul was adamant we should remain in Fair Havens. It was already early October – not the best time to be out at sea. I was dreaming about that Italian sunshine, though, and the pilot and captain of the ship were confident they could make it. Fair Havens was kind of small and there wasn’t much to do there; we didn’t relish spending a few months sitting around staring at each other. We overruled those who had reservations, including Paul putting in his two cents, weighed anchor, and set out, aiming to at least make Crete for the winter.
It wasn’t long before we wished we’d listened to Paul. A big nor’easter called a Euraquilo came rushing in with violence, and we were dead in its crosshairs. That wind was violent. It tossed us around like a piece of dust and we were sure this was the end for us. For two solid weeks, we took turns trying to hold the ship together in that driving wind and rain and keep it from capsizing and dumping us all to the bottom of the sea. In between that, we were all sick as a dog, and starving as well, because none of us could keep any food down between seasickness and being scared for our lives. Not to mention, it was dark as Egypt. The storm clouds were so thick we never saw the light of day. We knew this was it, and some of us took to writing letters to our families and sealing them up in bottles so maybe they’d get word one day about what happened.
Finally, that Paul stood up and made a speech. I won’t say he actually said, “I told you so,” but it sure felt like that’s what he said. But he was a stand-up guy. After he admonished us like the little spoiled kids we were for not listening, he gave us hope. He told us this God he belonged to and served was going to help us out, and that an angel sent from God had given his word that we were all going to make it because God wanted Paul to get to Rome. God was looking out for His child, and since we were all in the boat with him, He was going to get us there too.
Well, to make a long story short, we made it. We had to pretty much throw everything overboard and in the end, we run her aground offshore of this little island called Malta. When we hit those rocks, my men wanted to kill all the prisoners, because they knew if Rome found out we’d let them escape it would be our feet in the fire, but I convinced them to trust Paul. I didn’t think that man deserved to die after appealing to His God to save our sorry selves.
Those natives on that island were very kind to us, but that’s another story for tomorrow. If you ask me what I learned from this experience it’s that when you meet someone like Paul who has a personal relationship with the God who made those seas and that violent wind, it’d be a good idea to listen to their advice. They got some kind of special connection, and they might know some things it would be good for you to know. Also, sometimes we get ourselves in kind of a mess of our own making with no way out. We were in that storm because I listened to the advice of the majority as it agreed with what I was thinking. I’m really glad Paul didn’t hold any grudges and that His God was kind and merciful to fools like me.
I got my “comeuppance” on that trip, and I walked away a humbler man. I’m still thinking about that God, too. He might be Someone I need to get to know.
Oh, and if you want all the details of our trip (because I didn’t have time to tell you everything), you can look it up in Acts 27. I believe that Dr. Luke wrote down the story so the world would know about it.