Travel Itinerary: Acts 20:13-16
“13) But we, going ahead to the ship, set sail for Assos, intending from there to take Paul on board; for so he had arranged it, intending himself to go by land. 14) And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. 15) Sailing from there, we arrived the following day opposite Chios; and the next day we crossed over to Samos; and the day following we came to Miletus. 16) For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.” Acts‬ ‭20‬:‭13‬-‭16‬
The rigors of travel in the days of the early church were harsh at best. Traveling by land was most likely on foot. Traveling by sea was sailing on a wooden cargo ship that also accommodated some passengers.
As this trip ensued, Paul decided on the land route for much of his journey, while sending most of his team ahead by sea. They took him on board at Assos. The reason for Paul choosing the land route for much of his journey may have been that his thorn in the flesh contributed to motion sickness. There were no medications against that condition in those days. Every ship had a well used regurgitation rail usually at the stern.
No matter the reason for Paul opting for the land route, travel in those days was difficult and dangerous. There were wild beasts and robbers by land and storms and potential motion sickness by sea. 1 Corinthians 9:3-6 touches on the sacrifices Paul and Barnabas made for the gospel. The rigorous travel, irregular income and strenuous schedule may have been a contributing factor for Paul opting to remain single.
Paul’s decision to sail past Ephesus was motivated by time and not lack of desire to see them. He wanted to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost. The ship was most likely in port to unload cargo and take on more merchandise. But it only afforded some time to meet with the elders from Ephesus. Travel was so slow and there was no such thing as jet lag. Waiting was a normal part of life.
Such were the harsh realities of life in those days. Nothing was easy. When I survey my travel itinerary in these modern times, I have little reason for complaining. It takes less than two days to reach most destinations around the world. Most of my “power walking” is between gates at airports for tight connections. My greatest danger is the insane driving in counties like India. I am very thankful for my time in world history. I do not want to exchange my travel journal with that of Paul or any of the early Christians.
Yet, I recognize that life is very compressed today. We can force more into a few days than they could in a few weeks or months. Ironically, this contributes to our stress and lack of deep relationships. We have become willing slaves of the clock. It may be wise to take some lessons from the early Christians.
Yet, when it comes to travel, I feel spoiled. We are part of the soft generation. I do not consider 3rd class on an airplane to be a sacrifice. Jesus said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48) We have no excuse for not impacting the world with the gospel in our days.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global