27 On the 14th night the wind was still pushing us across the Adriatic Sea. About midnight the sailors had a feeling that they were approaching land. 28 They measured how deep the water was. They found that it was 120 feet deep. A short time later they measured the water again. This time it was 90 feet deep. 29 They were afraid we would crash against the rocks. So they dropped four anchors from the back of the ship. They prayed that daylight would come. 30 The sailors wanted to escape from the ship. So they let the lifeboat down into the sea. They pretended they were going to lower some anchors from the front of the ship. 31 But Paul spoke to the commander and the soldiers. “These men must stay with the ship,” he said. “If they don’t, you can’t be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat. They let it drift away. 33 Just before dawn Paul tried to get them all to eat. “For the last 14 days,” he said, “you have wondered what would happen. You have gone without food. You haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I am asking you to eat some food. You need it to live. Not one of you will lose a single hair from your head.” 35 After Paul said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God. He did this where they all could see him. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 All of them were filled with hope. So they ate some food. 37 There were 276 of us on board. 38 They ate as much as they wanted. They needed to make the ship lighter. So they threw the rest of the grain into the sea. 39 When daylight came, they saw a bay with a sandy beach. They didn’t recognize the place. But they decided to run the ship onto the beach if they could. 40 So they cut the anchors loose and left them in the sea. At the same time, they untied the ropes that held the rudders. They lifted the sail at the front of the ship to the wind. Then they headed for the beach. 41 But the ship hit a sandbar. So the front of it got stuck and wouldn’t move. The back of the ship was broken to pieces by the pounding of the waves. 42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners. They wanted to keep them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the commander wanted to save Paul’s life. So he kept the soldiers from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and swim to land. 44 The rest were supposed to get there on boards or other pieces of the ship. That is how everyone reached land safely.
Paul and his companions are on their way to Rome, where Paul is to stand trial. There is an incredible sense of impending disaster in this vivid account of a shipwreck recorded by Luke, when even the sailors lose courage and try to abandon the ship and its passengers to their fate. Quick thinking by Paul averts disaster and they make it through the night.
Paul is full of faith and trust in God in a situation that even the sea-toughened sailors see as hopeless. This leads him to encourage them to eat, looking ahead to their need for strength. Paul thanks God for the food before everyone, giving powerful witness to God’s provision. Even in probably the most desperate situation Paul had ever faced, he looks to thank and honour God. And he again prophesies that they will survive.
Looking for something to thank God for even when we are in a seemingly hopeless crisis turns our hearts back to him, and off ourselves. It reminds of his love for us, love that gave everything including his Son, a love that has no conditions. To me this doesn’t mean situations won’t be difficult or painful, or cost us emotionally, mentally, monetarily. These situations may not seem to be in the plan we thought God had for our lives. God has it in control, and we will know this and remember this, when we give thanks.
Father God, in my thankfulness I cling to you. Make my thankfulness be a witness to your love, that will draw my family, friends and colleagues to you. Amen.
Written by Claire Moore