Eddie Joe Lloyd was released from a Michigan prison in 2002 after serving seventeen years of a life sentence. He supposedly confessed to rape and murder to Detroit police while on medication in a mental hospital, but recent DNA tests proved he could not have been guilty. Assisted in his quest for freedom by the Innocence Project, Lloyd told reporters: “Lady Justice is blind. Sometimes she’s deaf. Sometimes the wheels of justice grind very slowly, sometimes they grind in reverse.” According to the Innocence Project, at least 110 inmates nationwide have been cleared in recent years by DNA testing.
Paul could relate to wrongful imprisonment. Following the end of today’s reading, tradition tells us that after several years of injustice he was finally found innocent and set free. But as the wheels of Roman justice and God’s sovereignty turned, first he had to travel to Rome. This Very Important Prisoner boarded a ship bound for the capital of the empire. Because Luke was on the voyage, we find in today’s reading their detailed itinerary as well as an exciting, well-told first-hand narrative of their shipwreck.
Paul’s purpose-filled life was an extraordinary witness under these extraordinary circumstances. We see a person’s true colors in crisis situations, and there was no doubt why and for whom Paul lived. He offered hope to his captors during the storm (27:21–26). He prayed for their lives. He earned the soldiers’ trust to such an extent that they listened to him and cut short the sailors’ plan to escape. He encouraged everyone to eat, and he set the example in a spirit of thankfulness (27:35). He gained such credibility with the centurion that he allowed the prisoners to swim to land, despite the fact that the soldiers’ lives were forfeit if anyone escaped. On land, apparently none the worse for wear, Paul actually helped gather firewood, which is nearly as amazing as his miraculous escape from the poisonous snake.
In Rome, Paul was put under house arrest to await trial. During these years, he wrote letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians, and continued sharing the gospel.
If you are interested in an authoritative study of the life of Paul that goes much farther and deeper than we can in one month of devotions, read Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, by New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce.
Originally published in 1977, this volume is regarded as a scholarly and spiritual classic and can easily be found at your local Christian bookstore. If not, check online at a Web site such as www.christianbook.com