International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday November 18, 2012
Purpose: To acknowledge the kindness we receive from others and challenge us to demonstrate our faith through ministering to those in need
Scripture Text: Acts 28:1-10
Acts 28:1-10 (CEB)
(1) After reaching land safely, we learned that the island was called Malta. (2) The islanders showed us extraordinary kindness. Because it was rainy and cold, they built a fire and welcomed all of us. (3) Paul gathered a bunch of dry sticks and put them on the fire. As he did, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, latched on to his hand. (4) When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer! He was rescued from the sea, but the goddess Justice hasn’t let him live!” (5) Paul shook the snake into the fire and suffered no harm. (6) They expected him to swell up with fever or suddenly drop dead. After waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to claim that he was a god.
(7) Publius, the island’s most prominent person, owned a large estate in that area. He welcomed us warmly into his home as his guests for three days. (8) Publius’ father was bedridden, sick with a fever and dysentery. Paul went to see him and prayed. He placed his hand on him and healed him. (9) Once this happened, the rest of the sick on the island came to him and were healed. (10) They honored us in many ways. When we were getting ready to sail again, they supplied us with what we needed.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
As our last lesson ended Paul and his companions along with the crew and soldiers on board a ship had cut loose of the anchors and were swimming or floating towards shore. This week's lesson continues from there. As Paul had promised all of those that remained with the ship were saved. Where they ended up was on the Island of Malta.
The Island of Malta has an interesting history, most famously it was the place during World War II that Italy surrendered and where Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met to sign the Yalta Treaty, which was to determine how the war torn countries in Europe were to be rebuilt. Malta is located only about 60 miles south of Sicily. An interesting fact, until May 28, 2011, decrees of divorce were not allowed. At that time, Malta was one of only three countries in the world, along with the Philippines and the Vatican City, in which divorce was not permitted. As a consequence of the referendum outcome, a law allowing divorce under certain conditions was enacted in the same year.
An interesting observation about our lesson is Paul's evangelism is never mentioned by Luke, nor does he deny that he is a god, as verse 6 proclaims. On prior occasions Paul and Barnabas made it clear in Acts 14: 8-18 that they were just humans as they were being called the Greek gods Hermes and Zeus. Or as Peter had proclaimed in Acts 10:26, when Peter told Cornelius “Get up! Like you, I am just a human...” Here the writer makes no record of such a declaration, that does not mean it was not said; only that it was not recorded. The same for Paul's evangelism of the natives, because of Paul's previous history, we can assume Paul declared the gospel but Luke failed to report it.
Paul's compassion and love for the Maltese people is certainly implied in the acts of healing that he performed and it records Paul as “praying” prior to the healing. Paul's acts of compassion and healing were not just for the powerful but was extended to of the Islanders rich or poor.
While it is recorded that Paul and his entourage stayed for 3 days in Publius estate, his total time on the Island was 3 months as recorded in verse 11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had spent the winter at the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with carvings of the twin gods Castor and Pollux as its figurehead.
Those so called “Barbarians” on the Island of Malta showed great hospitality both before they were healed by God through Paul's prayers and laying on of hands, and after as Paul was preparing to leave this Island. They honored Paul and his traveling companions in many ways, all of their needs were met.
Paul’s actions remind us of the importance of ministering to people’s needs, as well as graciously accepting the hospitality of our host, without compromising our faith.