At Grace, we’re almost through our study of Acts, which is about the acts of the Risen Jesus. This week, we are considering Paul’s sea voyage.
Sea voyages are common in Greek literature. Ocean voyages symbolize life’s journey as the protagonist overcomes obstacles of evil and chaos (think Jason and the Argonauts, or Odysseus). So… here’s Paul, on the sea, and the storm rages… how will he get through?
Let’s leave him there and consider Jewish stories of the sea for a moment. There aren’t many. But one comes immediately to mind: Jonah. Jonah, the wayward prophet, told in the book of the same name. He’s on a boat headed for Tarshish, until a mighty tempest threatens to break up the boat and kill all on board. In their despair and desperation, the pagan sailors end up throwing Jonah into the sea… and immediately, the sea was calm. They were saved.
That’s an amazing picture when you think of Jesus. In Matthew 12 and Luke 11, he said that “a one greater than Jonah is here.” Normally I’d think of him referencing the three days in the grave (commonly thought to be the ‘sign of Jonah’)… but perhaps also Jesus is referring to this sacrifice of Jonah.
A sea of chaos and storm… a fear of death… desperation. Who will save? Well, the sacrifice of one prophet saved those ungodly Gentile sailors.
And the sacrifice of one prophet, who is also the Son of God, who lived perfectly, who gave his life for us, who does that save? What storm does that rescue from? How much more does the sacrifice of Jesus save us from the chaotic storm of sin and evil that has engulfed us!
Jonah really does point to Jesus. Because the sacrifice of one leads to peace from God where before there was enmity.
Which brings us back to Paul. He’s still in the storm, the sea raging. How does he get through? Will he also be sacrificed right there? Is he another type of Jesus?
No. Jesus has already been sacrificed. Paul may give his life, but his life isn’t the answer for stopping the storm. Paul points to something else, something for us to hold to: God’s sure promise. He has to believe it. He says in v. 25, talking of his assurance from God, “so take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.”
This is what gets us through our storms today. Not the sacrifice of ourselves, as if our merit gets us through. But faith in the one who did sacrifice, the one who was meritorious. Faith in the one whose sacrifice was acceptable to God, whose sacrifice calmed the seas of enmity, and who heralds peace. He is our only hope, and the promise is that if we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus, we will be saved (Romans 10:9).
Storms rage… but faith holds us fast. No matter what seas we are on, may we rest in the object of our salvation: Jesus Christ, the resurrected one, our Lord and Savior!