Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The New and Better Ship

"But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed" (Acts 27:22).

In most cultures of the world, the ship is a symbol for the body politic, the “ship of state,” and in the Bible we find this as well. Paul was being transported to Rome on a ship of the Roman Empire, and en route, the ship put in at the port of Fair Havens. Paul warned that if they went further they would meet with disaster, but the Roman centurion did not listen to Paul, and the ship set sail again.

Shortly after the Day of Atonement, God sent a great storm that threatened to destroy the ship and all within her (Acts 27:9ff.). (In the Old Testament calendar, the Feast of Tabernacles came right after the Day of Atonement and celebrated the ingathering of all nations into God’s kingdom.) The storm was so severe that the sailors first threw the cargo overboard, followed later by the ship’s own tackle and rigging (Acts 27:18–20).

Paul announced to the centurion that the ship would be lost, but that if they listened to him, all the lives would be saved. There was a new ship, so to speak, and if they would forsake the old and get on board the new, they would be saved. The centurion listened to Paul, and forced everyone to obey him (Acts 27:21–32).

Just before the ship wrecked, Paul broke bread and served it to everyone on board. Acts 27:35 reads almost identically to the formula for the Ford’s Supper, and we are thus reminded of it. Those who had united themselves to God’s servant were fed, in a certain sense, at His table. Then the ship wrecked, but all the people were saved (Acts 27:33–44).

This story, told by Luke in great detail, reminds us of the times when storms threatened the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus stilled those storms, but in this case the storm destroyed the ship. Yet, those who trusted Paul and united with him were saved. The Romans came to trust Paul in the midst of the storm because he had the wisdom they needed to get through it. The imagery in this story communicates to us that this world’s ships of state will not be able to weather the storms God sends into history. Rather, all people must ally themselves with God’s new kingdom if they are to be saved. His kingdom cannot be sunk by storms. Indeed, it endures forever and always.

When storms enter your life, to whom do you turn to calm them? Too often we turn to that earthly power, the state. Real, lasting peace, however, comes only from above, from the Prince of Peace. Seek to better understand that your citizenship is in heaven, the eternal kingdom.