A period of three months elapsed and then we set sail in a ship that had wintered at the island. It (too) was a ship of Alexandria, with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead. Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium; and after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found brothers and sisters, and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers and sisters there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them Paul thanked God and took courage. And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier that guarded him. - Acts 28:11-16


ARRIVAL IN ROME: An image of central Rome as it looks today. PICTURE: Claudio Recanatini/Unsplash

Luke concludes his travelogue after noting the time it took before they could leave Malta, their arrival at Syracuse, Rhegium and Puteoli. Paul was to receive a welcome which encouraged him. 

After that horrendous sea voyage, the viper and the malarial clinic on Malta, Paul's arrival in Rome is noted simply and without much excitement. We are told a few brothers and sisters had travelled some way to greet him. But his arrival, even with the soldier guarding him, is recorded as an anti-climax, a let down when compared with the excitement of the sea voyage. Paul may have arrived in Rome but the way Luke tells it, we have to wonder whether the case against Paul had collapsed for lack of evidence.

We imagine Luke and Aristarchus looking at each other. They notice Paul was able to "take courage" when he was welcomed on the Appian Way at the Three Taverns. And Paul's thanks to God were deep. The Lord had enabled him to get to where He had wanted him to go. So, yes, prayerful thanks were called for: Thank-you Lord for this day and getting me to where you want me to be! And now? The journey was over. Paul had arrived to make his appeal to Caesar. That is why he has been brought to Rome under armed escort. He has arrived. And now?

I assume Luke himself, at this point in his story, asked this same question. Those who had supported Paul were eager to find out what he was going to do. How was he to get his case heard? How was he to have a ruling made that confirmed he had no case to answer? We do not know. Having followed Luke's story as carefully as we have done, there might still be something we have missed along the way, but we can say that the account of Paul's arrival is very low-key. Did Paul gain a new sense of what lay ahead for those who believed? A long and arduous process beckoned for those proclaiming the Gospel in the Gentile world. Could Paul have begun to sense that he was working at a very early stage in the work? Had his life been merely a preparation for...what?

At this point in Luke's narrative it is natural for us to wonder about Paul's view of the Roman Empire and its administrative institutions. This collector of sticks from the beach at Malta was now called by Jesus to adopt a humble and quiet life, to write letters, entertain guests and impart the message of Jesus Christ to whomever the Almighty brought across his path. That became his calling. That was then the important work Jesus had called him to undertake.