I remember when I was a kid, and I just absolutely had to have an Atari Game system. For those of you too young, this was the predecessor to Nintendo and Wii. I was just about to bust as I watched my friends play with theirs. I was just so set on getting it for Christmas and I’m afraid I wasn’t very subtle with my dad. On Christmas morning I got up early and had to wait for my folks to get up. Of course that didn’t stop me from shaking the box with my name on it. And then I finally got to open it, set it up, and play with it. But just like with everything else in this world, the thrill didn’t last nearly as long as I thought.
With all the years of anticipation, you’d expect Luke to provide more fanfare for the culmination of Paul’s longtime goal. But no, it’s pretty anticlimactic, just a note in one verse: “And so we came to Rome.” What’s really touching to me is what happened right after they arrived.
They discovered, once again, that God’s children tend to find friends from unexpected places. Dear siblings in Christ had heard that he was coming, and they had traveled from their homes and were waiting for him. The Three Taverns was 33 miles from Rome, and the Forum of Appius was 43 miles away. They'd heard that he was on his way in order to stand trial and appeal to Caesar, and they wanted to be there to support him.
Let me tell you, I’ve been on mission trips, and there’s nothing like a friendly face in a strange town. Paul had never been there before, at least as a Christian, and he faced lots of uncertainty. As far as we know, the Lord had only promised that Paul would make it to Rome, nothing about the outcome of the trial. He might literally find his neck on the chopping block (the standard method of execution for Roman citizens). He had Luke with him (you can tell from the first person plurals in the narratives), but he desperately could use some support from as many siblings as possible. They'd sacrificed quite a bit to be there for him—It’s not as if they could just take a train or plane there.
And we also see a little bit of mercy from God by means of the Roman government. Instead of being put into the worst prisons (which were hellholes), he was basically under house arrest. That meant that he could receive any visitors he wanted. Again, that meant that he could meet with his siblings in Christ and pray for each other, discuss Scripture together, and worship together. And as we’ll see tomorrow, the situation also was an open door for some more evangelistic opportunities.
To me this is another reminder that our Shepherd always knows what we need—moment by moment—and he always supplies what we need. When we need an embrace and a whisper in the ear that all will be well, most of the time our Savior does that for us through his Body.
So is there anyone in need around you who needs that embrace and whisper? Is there anyone going into unknown territory who needs support from the Savior? If you know about that person, it’s likely that that is your call to be the hands and mouth that Jesus wants to use. Will you do it?
Yes, Lord. I will.
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