Day 39

Paul Taken to Rome

from the Acts of the Apostles reading plan

Acts 27:1-44, Acts 28:1-10, Luke 12:4-7, Mark 16:17-18

BY Kaitlin Wernet

Text:  Acts 27:1-44, Acts 28:1-10, Luke 12:4-7, Mark 16:17-18

I don’t think Gladys and Ragamuffin #3 would have been friends. In fact, I don’t think they even knew each other existed or had anything in common, except for the fact that they were characters played in the same production of 42nd Street by the same actress—me.

They were polar opposites. Gladys was a seasoned Broadway showgirl, singing her heart out while teaching the lead how to tap dance. Ragamuffin #3 was an unnamed beggar, wearied by the Great Depression. I’d love to know what was running through the director’s mind as she cast the roles. When she spread out all of the submitted headshots and stared into those hopeful faces, I wonder what made her point to mine and think, Gladys! and… Ragamuffin #3.

Backstage, my dressing room had two separate racks. Gladys’ was all sequins and show, while Ragamuffin #3’s was bare and battered. During the show, I’d shuffle behind the curtains to apply or remove lipstick, change and adjust wigs, and look down to make sure I wasn’t wearing tap shoes with my beggar’s clothes. Any small change could poke holes in the audience’s perception of the story, so it was up to me to make sure Gladys and Ragamuffin #3 didn’t meet during the show.

Isn’t it funny how even the smallest details can create or destroy our perception?

If I take a seat in the audience of my own life, I begin to cast myself and my circumstances in the leading role. When I get a new job and move to a new city, I’m bathing in sequins for days. But when I’m tossing and turning, worrying about my relationships, I’m costumed in tattered old rags.

I wonder if those aboard the ship in Acts 27 felt like they were auditioning for forgotten, unnamed roles. The ship was seemingly built to wreck, the storm to destroy, the disease to kill, the crew to die. Any audience member would assume they’d been cast and chosen for the role of suffering. And yet, our circumstances don’t write our story; God does.

The ship crashes on the island of Malta and the turning point is seemingly nowhere in sight, when Paul breaks out of character, shedding the costume of suffering, and healing those around him. Now, the curtain could fall here and tell the wrong story, encouraging us to serve from our suffering and applaud the go-getter.

But what if that’s not what God has for us here? What if Jesus wants to meet us backstage and between the curtains, past the crowd and the circumstances? I don’t think God spreads our faces across a board, separating His children into categories of “suffering” and “celebrating.” Instead, He just claims us as “His,” over and over again. We are a chorus of His beloved sons and daughters.

When we let His truth about our identity create our perception, the focus is no longer the role of suffering or serving, but the One who combined the two on the cross. We need Ragamuffin #3 just as much as we need Gladys; but just as they are cast to tell a story, so are we.

May we renew our faith in the Director, and assume our appointed roles in the truthful pages of His gospel. Amen.


Post Comments (60)

60 thoughts on "Paul Taken to Rome"

  1. Libby says:

    “Our circumstances don’t write our story, God does.” Thank you for that gold nugget. Holding on to it tightly in these upcoming months!

    1. She Reads Truth says:

      Holding on too, Libby. So grateful it is true!


  2. Elizabeth says:

    Such a great analogy! Especially for someone like me, who is a performer. :) Thank you SRT!

    1. She Reads Truth says:

      Thanks for joining us, Elizabeth! Happy to see you here today!


  3. Susan says:

    “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”
    I know this is referring to being saved. Sometimes God speaks to me right where I am that day.

    We lost our much loved pet dog that our family has had for many years.
    I need to be reminded to keep my eyes in the scripture and not make myself sick.
    Paul sure was going through storms in his life and who did he turn too. GOD.

    The song ” Turn your eyes upon Jesus” came to my mind so I am going to be singing that today.

    1. Stephanie Hibbert says:

      So sorry for your loss!

    2. Ellie says:

      Always difficult – so sorrySusan.

  4. Annmarie says:

    Can you please further explain Mark 16 17-18 and how it relates to believers today? This one always puzzles me as I have done none of which is listed in that verse, yet I still am a believer…?

    1. Samantha RN says:

      Annmarie – I’m so glad you asked about this. So many of us don’t value exegesis and biblical context in the way we should. I’m currently in seminary, and we just recently discussed this “longer ending of Mark.” Please excuse the length, but I hope it’s helpful!

      The Longer Ending of Mark
      Dr. Erin M. Heim

      If you were preaching through a series on the Gospel of Mark, what would you do with Mark’s “longer ending”? Conceivably, response could range from “let’s use this as an opportunity to talk about the formulation of the Bible,” to “we shouldn’t preach this as inspired Scripture,” to “of course we should preach verses 9–20, they were affirmed by early Church Fathers as part of Mark’s Gospel!” Whatever approach is taken, it is fairly clear that you could not simply ignore these verses.

      We have to keep in mind that this isn’t a straightforward issue; whatever we decide is the best course of action. Though most don’t dispute that verses 9–20 are not original to Mark’s Gospel, we also must recognize that they were affirmed as part of his Gospel from an early date (e.g. Irenaeus quotes from Mark 16:19 in “Against Heresies” so we can be certain that the longer ending was being affirmed as Scripture no later than the last quarter of the second century). On the other hand, two important witnesses, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus do not include them. So if Mark didn’t write them, and important manuscripts don’t include them, should we remove them from our Bibles? I have two thoughts for you to ponder in relation to this question: (1) Why and when were these verses added, and are they potentially “heretical and dangerous” as our textbook indicates? And more fundamentally (2) how does the criteria for canonicity relate to the longer ending of Mark?

      Scholars are nearly evenly divided on the question of whether Mark intended to end his Gospel at 16:8, or whether Mark’s original ending was lost at an early date. However, most agree that Mark 16:9–20 was added to fill in the gaps of Mark’s abrupt ending. Given that there are both strong and weak parallels to other passages in the Gospels and Acts (e.g. Matt 28:1, 18–20; Luke 8:2; 24:1–53; John 20:1–23; Acts 1:6–8; 2:1–13; 3:1–10; 8:7; 16:16–18; 28:3–6), there is a strong possibility that the author of Mark 16:9–20 had access to the other three Gospels and Acts. One solution that I find persuasive is that the longer ending of Mark was added when the four Gospels began to circulate together (which has to be before Irenaeus is writing) in order to finish out the story and to bring Mark’s Gospel into conformity with the other three. As far as the “heretical” content goes, certainly if we take the “sign” that believers with pick up snakes and drink poison to be a “command” or a test of “true belief” then we may have some heterodox theology and dangerous consequences. But if the author of the longer ending is alluding to some of the signs performed by early Christians, then perhaps we should only interpret verses 18 as an echo of Paul’s encounter with the viper (Acts 28:3–6). If this is the case, then the longer ending of Mark is no stranger than signs recorded elsewhere.

      Whether the teaching is orthodox, or whether we think these verses teach heresy, we must grapple with the more fundamental question of what it means for a book or a text to be included or excluded from the canon. We as evangelicals put a strong emphasis on apostolicity, which for us usually boils down to authorship. Thus many of us quickly conclude that if Mark didn’t write them then they shouldn’t be included. But we have to remember that there are other criteria for canonicity, and indeed we have at least one document included in our canon whose link to apostolicity is unknown (Hebrews). The most salient one to consider with the longer ending of Mark is catholicity (or “relevance” in JG, 109), which is whether the text was widely used in the early church. It seems like the longer ending of Mark, despite its absence in several important witnesses, was fairly widely circulated in the early church. Moreover, the canon formulation is tricky evidence to evaluate because the councils ruled on whole books and not parts of books, so it’s difficult to know which version of was affirmed by the church councils. Even more fascinating is that some Church Fathers used the ending of Mark as canon, while at the same time acknowledging that it was spurious! This is a big question to consider when we think about what it means for Scripture to be inspired and what took place in the early church as the canon was being formed. Again, wherever we come down on the question of the longer endings’ canonicity, we need to remember that no Christian doctrine hangs on this passage, and it doesn’t contain material that isn’t at least loosely paralleled elsewhere.

      Okay, enough scholarly mumbo-jumbo. What difference does all of this make in the lives of our church members? Well, I can think of a few big “take-aways” from this exercise. First, we can have a high degree of confidence that the manuscripts of the New Testament that underlie our composite Bible (as we have it in our modern, English translations) accurately transmit the text of the Gospels 97–99 percent of the time, and where there is dispute (as in Mark 16 and John 8), the disputed texts are still included in very early sources in church tradition (so there is “dispute” for good reason). Second, we need to recognize and appreciate that we stand in a history of two thousand years of Christianity, and the issue of canon is not only about authorship (though it is about that). At the end of the day, we need to be willing to view those who put their exclamation points in different places generously (e.g. “authorship!” “catholicity!”), and recognize that they each do so because they are trying to uphold the authority of Scripture. And viewing our Christian brothers and sisters who think differently about difficult issues with generosity is always a good lesson ☺.

      1. Keri Underwood says:

        Thanks for this! I found it very interesting.

      2. Christine Klement says:

        Wow, thank you!

      3. Nikravesous says:

        This is awesome! Reading this makes me want to go to seminary! Thanks for sharing

    2. Katie K. says:

      While the passage points to what we read in Acts, I think the bigger emphasis for believers today is that God is healer and conquerer over Satan and evil. We are not to be foolish in handling snakes or drinking poison but the context was for the believers to be examples of God’s healing power like in Acts

    3. Pam B says:

      We have to also remember that none of the things listed in these verses are required for salvation. Trusting Jesus as our Lord and Savior is all that we need to do to be saved. There are many spiritual gifts and acts that early Christians did that those of us today might never do, but that doesn’t make us any less of a Christian. God blessed us all with spiritual gifts, and they won’t be the same as someone else’s and that’s what makes the church so special. We need all these different gifts to encourage each other and be a unified body. :-)

  5. Amen says:

    When you are in the storm, do you continue trying without losing hope, or do you give up?
    When your advice to survive gets ignored, do you continue to express your faith amidst that storm?
    Do you persevere and continue to encourage others despite having your advice ignored?

    Despite being a prisoner, Paul’s story here teaches us to try and try again.
    Amidst the storm, the example for how to get through is demonstrated:
    – offer your advice,
    – express your faith,
    – promote survival,
    – break bread with everyone, and
    – give thanks to God in the presence of all of them.

  6. Caroline harries says:

    So thankful that he writes our story so it all works out for our good! amazing

  7. Brandi says:

    So take courage! For I believe God! It will be just as He said! – Acts 27:25
    I want to hold on to this today!

    1. Steph W says:

      Yes! This verse jumped out to me today as well :)

  8. Melea says:

    Brilliant analogy. Much-needed, encouraging words! Thank you!

    1. She Reads Truth says:

      Thanks for joining us today, Melea! Love to you!


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