The Beach Landing: Acts‬ ‭27‬:‭39‬-‭44‬
“39) When day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could. 40) And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders; and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach. 41) But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves. 42) The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim away and escape; 43) but the centurion, wanting to bring Paul safely through, kept them from their intention, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, 44) and the rest should follow, some on planks, and others on various things from the ship. And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land.” Acts‬ ‭27‬:‭39‬-‭44‬
Night giving way to day added new perspective. They could now see the island and its shoreline clearly. They did not recognize the island, but they did see a beach that offered a potential grounding for the ship. They devised a plan to drive the ship on the beach if they could.
That involved cutting away the four anchors from the stern, loosening the rudder for some navigation and hosting the only remaining foresail to catch the wind. The rudder was only useful as the ship gained some speed.
They were making progress, until the ship struck and grounded on a shallow reef. It was immovable, and the pounding waves began breaking the stern of the ship apart. Time was of the essence.
The soldiers had devised a plan to kill all prisoners, but Paul had gained favor and most likely Christian brotherhood with the centurion. His authority and intervention saved the lives of all prisoners and commanded the plan for all on board to attempt to make it to shore alive.
The swimmers went first. The waters were still choppy, but most likely calmed by the reef. The text makes no mention how far it was to shore. Others threw floating objects overboard and used them to make land.
The huge miracle was that everyone made it safely to land. There was no mention of women or children in the story, but it is likely some were present as well.
This fulfilled three prophecies given by Paul in this chapter. First, in verse 10 he warned that all cargo and the ship itself would be lost if they embarked on the journey. So it happened! Second, from verses 23-24, he knew that both he and all on board would be spared. So it happened! Finally, from verses 30-35 he warned that the mutiny of the crew had to be averted for all to be saved. So it happened! These three prophecies by inference included the lives of all prisoners being spared. So it happened!
This is very fascinating, because those simple prophecies included many very specific items. Had one prisoner been killed, one person drowned or cargo been saved, Paul would have been a false prophet. As it was, he became revered as a man in tune with God!
On a comical note, after this long time at sea, the crew, the soldiers, the prisoners and the passengers all most likely suffered from “sea legs” when they finally reached shore. It would have been nearly impossible to stand or walk straight for several hours. To the island residents, they most likely looked like “drunken sailors.” This was an idiom referring to the comical sea legs of sailors arriving on land from long times at sea.
I have suffered from sea legs and once preached a message under its influence. I clung to the old wooden pulpit to maintain balance. At the end of the service, some of the old saints got a little closer than usual. I suspect they were sniffing my breath!
The reader must wonder why God included this long chapter in the book of Acts? My guess is that He wants us to know that He is with us through the storms and trials of life. Christian’s are not exempt.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, Paul described the many storms and hardships he endured for the sake of the gospel. In verse 25, he testified that he had been shipwrecked three times. On one of those occasions, he “spent a night and day in the deep”, most likely treading water. In the context, he included many other perils he endured in his journey’s including physical beatings, being stoned and other persecutions.
I marvel that he was willing to endure so much for Jesus and the sake of the gospel. Why? His sufferings did not come close to comparing to the glories and indescribable encounters he had with Jesus Christ in the Spirit. (See 2 Corinthians 12:1-13) These included dreams and visions, being caught up to the third heaven and many signs and wonders. He surfed through life on the wake of the supernatural.
For the godly and Spirit filled believer, every journey is a new adventure? Each day is a fresh opportunity for intimate fellowship with Jesus, walking in the Spirit and beholding the miraculous. Like Paul, we need to invite God to shatter the small and pathetic boxes of own understanding in order to daily experience His glory. His ways are so much higher than ours. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Isaiah 55:6-9; Hebrews 13:8)
He invites us to live life on His level. I confess, I have a growing distain for mundane Christianity that reduces God to small and powerless boxes of human understanding and sanitized doctrines based on naturalism. What becomes ordinary for Spirit filled believers is carefully censored in many evangelical Bible colleges, seminaries and churches. They read the book of Acts, but quickly point out that “God does not work that way today.” It is being done for them as they believe!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global