After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” – Acts 28:11-16
After his sojourn on Malta Paul is again on his way to Rome to resolve his appeal to Caesar. The mystery of the boat replacement is solved in this passage as they are described as finding passage on an “Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux”. This is an interesting detail as these two Greek gods were considered the patrons of travelers, and of sailors in particular. Paul has clearly demonstrated to those with him that his God is bigger than storms and snakebites. God is the true patron of travelers in this land of oblivion on our journey home to the undiscovered country.
The Roman veneration and worship of Castor and Pollux may have lent new meaning to Paul’s triumphant arrival in Rome on a ship bearing their names. It was certainly not lost on the roman soldiers that were with Paul and I am sure word spread among the Roman soldiers that the God that Paul was speaking about had great power and protected those who faithfully follow Him.
Apparently word of Paul’s journey preceded him among believers. After landing and disembarking to walk along the Appian way to Rome Paul is met by believers who have traveled to meet him. They are about a day’s journey from Rome at a place called “the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns”. Apparently the Forum of Appius was a well-known landmark along the Appian way that led from Rome to Brindisi in southern Italy.
My family lived in Italy for a year when I was in fifth grade and we visited Rome and many of the places described in this passage. I do not remember being aware of the Appian way and the history it held. Looking back I wish I would have spent more time being interested in history and less time eating pepperoni pizza and catching lizards. I did return to Italy just out of high school on a trip through Europe with my sister. We actually visited Brindisi, Italy on our way to the Greek island of Corfu. I am sure we visited historic places on that trip, but what I mainly remember was the beaches and riding scooters. But I digress, back to this interesting stretch of water.
It sounds like the believers actually travel with Paul for last part of his journey to Rome. This was probably to serve as advocates to the Roman government to help Paul get situated in Rome. Apparently their advocacy was effective as Paul is placed under what sounds like house arrest but he is free to receive many guests who are anxious to hear about the Good News he has brought.
After getting settled in Paul reaches out to the local Jewish leaders. Clearly Paul still identifies with his Jewish roots. Paul wants to explain why he has brought charges against his own people with regard to his treatment in Jerusalem by the Jewish leaders there. I sense that Paul wants to reset hi relationship with these Jewish leaders before they take the same attitudes and approach as the leaders in Jerusalem. Paul makes it clear that “It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”
I do not know whether the chain that Paul was bound by was a physical one, but there was certainly a metaphysical one binding him to God. He bound himself to the Messiah Jesus, and all that He stands for, no matter where he is and what is happening – storms, shipwrecks, snakebites, and prisons included.
We are called to bind ourselves to God and Jesus in a similar manner. The self-imposed chains that Paul, and all God followers, choose to wear are very different than the worldly coils that tend to ensnare us. These chains are actually a sign of freedom and they keep us close to God, and one another, when the road ahead gets difficult.
Prayer: God thank You for allowing us to bind ourselves to you. Keep us close and lead us where You need us to go.