Acts 27:1-12: The majority are not always right.

“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.      The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.            Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement.[a] So Paul warned them, 10 ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’ 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbour was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbour in Crete, facing both south-west and north-west.” NIV UK

Note a number of things:

  • Luke had obviously rejoined Paul for this journey. They had been temporarily separated by Paul’s imprisonment, but Luke now describes the voyage saying ‘’we.’’ He was on board for these journeys. ‘’Aristarchus’’ was also with them (see Acts 19:29; 20:4; Col.4:10);
  • The kindness shown to Paul by the centurion, Julius: ‘It was a most merciful Providence that placed the apostle with such a man. He showed exceptional kindness in releasing Paul on parole at Sidon, that he might visit his friends and no doubt provide himself with basic necessities for the stormy and hazardous winter voyage.’’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary,’ p.501;
  • The first ship was not going all the way to Rome, so they boarded another vessel at ‘’Myra.’’ It had come from the Egyptian port of Alexandria and was on its way to Rome. This ship was loaded with grain (38). In those days, most of Rome’s wheat and corn came from Egypt;
  • It was very dangerous to sail on the Mediterranean Sea in Winter, and signs had already proved ominous (7-9).It was already October. We know this because the ‘’Fast’’ (9) was the Day of Atonement, and it’s been calculated that in that year (thought to be 59 A.D ) it fell during the first week of October;
  • Paul, as an experienced traveller, advised the centurion not to travel any further but to wait until the end of Winter, but his counsel went unheeded: ‘The man who knew God was wiser than the men who knew the sea.’ F.B. Meyer. We read that ‘’the majority decided’’ (12), but the majority are not always right. They went by logic, deciding that the harbour at ‘’Fair Havens’’ was small and unsuitable for spending the winter there. At first their decision seemed to be vindicated (13) but early appearances can be misleading. A storm was brewing;
  • We know from the gospels that if Jesus is on board the ship, we need not fear the storm. As we will see, Jesus was on board