Are you kidding me with this? You think this is going to stop me? Pass the marshmallows and let me tell you a story about a man, three days dead, who walked out of a tomb and into my heart.
So our band of castaways from the shipwrecked Edward Spitsherald finds themselves on the shore of an unknown island. They are greeted by a band of natives who are amazed to find this group of foreigners amidst a scattering of broken boards, barrels, and oars. They were amazed because, the big lake it’s said, never gives up her dead when the skies of November turn gloomy.
Hours before the captain had wired in that they had water coming in, and the good ship and crew was in peril. But since electronic communication had not yet been invented their Mayday pleas went unheard. Fortunately the Lord was watching over them and they all made it to shore, cold, wet and exhausted, but alive and glad of it.
Yet here they are, mysterious miracle men from the sea and they are ushered to a place where it’s dry enough to build a big bonfire and try to find some comfort and relief from the weeks of cold, wet, and terror they have been experiencing on that storm tossed boat.
No doubt these islanders are a little nervous about this bunch. Seasoned sailors, Roman soldiers, prisoners, all looking pretty haggard and desperate. Yet they are given great favor by the Lord and shown, in Luke’s words, unusual kindness.
No doubt all these castaways are grateful for anything that doesn’t involve the threat of drowning. Just hours earlier as the ship was breaking up on the rocks offshore the captain had said, Fellas, it’s been good to know ya. But now here they are, safe and sound, absorbing the heat of a blazing fire on a beach surrounded by all those they thought they would never see alive again this side of eternity. even with the continued rain and wind, it must have seemed like heaven.
“Woohoo! We’ve made it! We’re alive! Remember how we had almost given up? Lost all hope? Wow, God is good!”
I can only imagine the relief Paul and Luke must have been feeling, high on the very goodness of their God who had seen them through the storm of the century and spared them from becoming just another song of lost voyagers on a stormy lake.
But this is not heaven and they are all soon reminded. This island is a haven for false gods and the devil knows full well that his newest nemesis Paul is going to stir things up. So he stirs up his kin, the local snakes.
But God just laughs and says, snakes and goddesses my eye, I’ll show you who’s in charge, this one belongs to me.
When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” Acts 28:4
Paul, who is still a prisoner, is standing there among the group huddled around the fire as those in charge try to explain to the Malta natives who and what they are. Apparently he decides more fuel is needed for the fire and he turns to Luke; “Luke, hold my wine, I’m going to get some more wood for the fire, I saw some dry brush over there under that overhang when we walked up here.”
So Paul grabs up a big armful of the brush and as he approaches the warmth of the fire he’s about to toss some of it on to, he feels a sudden sharp pain in his hand-Thorns? Aahh!–are you kidding me? A snake!?
Dr Luke, a man who has been around and no doubt has treated his share of snake bites calls it a viper, a deadly poisonous snake. Also known as an Adder.
So much for God’s favor—well, not so fast.
Imagine if you were Paul-‘I’ve survived a weeks long storm, a shipwreck, many attempted assassinations including being nearly executed by my guards just before the ship broke up, plunged into a stormy sea, tossed over the rocks and onto the shore in the dark on a piece of busted wood only to be bitten by a stupid snake? Come on!’
No. That’s not what Paul said at all. He simply shook the snake off into the fire, took back his cup from Luke, sat down and made himself a smore.
He was apparently not concerned in the least. He knew his Lord had not brought him this far simply to forget his promise to him about witnessing in Rome simply because some random snake, probably another desperate attempt by the biggest snake of all, to kill him once again.
How frustrating it must be to be the enemy. But it’s, no doubt, not a lot of fun to be Paul either. He seems to be living rent free in the mind of the enemy who constantly sees Paul through the scope of his 50 caliber apostle blaster gun. But he just can’t seem to do any more than irritate or at best wing him.
But Paul is feeling the heat, yet he keeps pushing on, confident that he is doing what he is supposed to be doing and that he is where he is supposed to be every step of the way.
Let the enemy huff and puff, he’s not blowing Paul’s house down. He is built on the rock and he still has work to do. His days are numbered yes, but they are numbered by God and not one of them will be taken away until his race is run.
The enemy keeps trying to stop him but he just keeps arriving at the next stop along the way.
Here’s just a partial list of the attacks he has endured to keep bringing the gospel to the world:
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 1 Cor 11:24-28
Paul has suffered and toiled mightily for the gospel. But that’s what Apostles, evangelists and pastors do. The kingdom often advances with violence, but advance it does.
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. Mat 11:12
So this little old viper—Are you kidding me with this? You think this is going to stop me? Pass the marshmallows and let me tell you a story about a man, three days dead, who walked out of a tomb and into my heart. And by the way, he promised his followers that neither poison nor snakes would harm them.’
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18
Paul’s life is a living sermon illustration, and he takes full advantage of it. ‘Yeah, this and this happened—but let me tell you why, you see there is this Son of God they called Jesus of Nazareth… and he said this snake thing would happen but we were not to worry about it, so I’m not.’
Paul is doing here just what he has been commissioned to do, what we all have been commissioned to do; “Making disciples of all nations.” Even if you end up in nations you never intended to go to and aren’t even sure where you are when you arrive.
Just keep preaching Jesus.