In Acts 16, through a vision, God called Paul to bring the Gospel to the heart of the ancient Greek Empire… but didn’t mention the beating, the Jail, the stocks, and the earthquake.
In Acts 23, the Lord appears to Paul and tells him that he will testify in Rome.
Paul had just been imprisoned in Jerusalem, for apparently causing a riot, but the Romans were confused as to why the Jews were rioting. It’s a theme toward the end of Acts; the Romans keep wondering, “Why do religious folks hate the Gospel—the Good News?” That night, in Jail in Jerusalem “the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage (tharsei), for as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness in Rome.’”
It’s interesting that what will happen is in the indictive—”As you testified, it is necessary to testify in Rome.” But how Paul is to travel is in the imperative—”Take heart. Be of good cheer. Tharsei.”
When the disciples are caught in a storm on the sea and think Jesus is a ghost walking on the water, he calls out, “tharseite” (the plural of tharsei), “Y’all have courage.”
And when the disciples are caught in another storm, far more terrifying, which we now call “Good Friday,” after dinner, and before Gethsemane, he says “Tharseite. In this world, you will have tribulation. But tharseite (Be of good cheer; Take heart.); I have overcome the world.”
So, Jesus said, “You will testify in Rome” and “Take courage,” but he didn’t mention two years of imprisonment in Caesarea first, and he didn’t mention how he would end up in Rome, or what would happen on the journey… And that’s good, for otherwise the world would not see “tharsos” (courage), and we would not learn “tharseo” (how to walk on the sea, or hell, in a storm). To the Hebrews, the depths of the sea was hell.
In Acts 27, having appealed to Caeser and under the custody of a Roman Centurion, Paul along with Luke and other prisoners, sets sail upon the sea and is destined for Rome.
At one point, Paul warns the sailors that they need to put into some port, for it’s too late in the year to be sailing on the Adriatic Sea. But no one listens to Paul. And why should they? The sailors had a purpose (prothesis: a plan), but soon a “tempestuous wind” began to drive them off course—their course—until “all hope of being saved was at last abandoned.”
God arranges for storms to destroy our plans and reveal his plan: Jesus.
“God set forth his Will in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite (literally, “bring together under one head”) all things in him, things in heaven and on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose (prothesis: the plan) of him who works all things according to the counsel of his Will (Ephesians 1:10-11).”
Religious types will tell you that you can’t really believe that. But Paul wrote that, and I think it gave him incredible tharsos so he could tharseo: walk through any storm with a smile.
In Acts 27:25, just as Jesus told Paul to take heart, he tells the sailors to take heart, for an angel has told him, “You must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all who sail with you.”
In Acts 27:30, on the fourteenth night, some sailors try to steal the lifeboat, and Paul tells the Centurion “Unless these men stay in the ship, Y’all cannot be saved (Not ‘they cannot be saved’).” Paul talks as if one’s salvation is dependent on the salvation of others; we often talk as if one’s salvation is dependent on the damnation of others. So, of course, we don’t have much tharseo… If we’re all one body and you damn others, you only damn yourself, as if the measure you give is the measure you get.
In Acts 27: 34-36, “‘I urge all of you to take food,” says Paul, “not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” Then Luke writes, “And when he said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks [eucharisteo] in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat [having given also to us]. Then all took heart and ate some food themselves.”
They did what Paul told them to do. Why? In the storm, they saw tharsos in Paul.
And what did he tell them to do? “Take some food.”
What food? The bread he took and having given thanks, he broke and gave to all.
Commentaries can’t help but point out that this sounds just like communion. But all seem to also point out that it can’t actually be communion, for then Paul would be offering it to “unbelievers,” that is people that have not joined an institutional church for they have not met our qualifications. . . over which we fight endless wars.
Luke (the author of Acts) makes it clear in his Gospel that Jesus said, “Do it (imperative tense)” to twelve guys who did not meet any of our qualifications, one of them being Judas. Was there a worse sinner on that ship than Judas? Yes, according to Scripture—“The foremost of sinners:” St. Paul.
Why do religious folks hate the Gospel freely announced to “Gentiles”?
The Jews thought that their salvation was dependent on the damnation of the Romans, which was rather inconceivable to the Romans, who thought their exaltation was obviously dependent on their humiliation of the Jews. Neither could conceive of a God that could have Grace on all and that this Grace could create Faith in all, which is a New Heart in all. They hadn’t seen God’s Heart given to all on the tree in the garden. There are some things you just cannot see except in a storm where all your plans are stripped away and all that’s left is the plan of God from the bosom of the Father: Jesus. He said, “Take and eat. Take and drink.” at the very height of the storm.
He said, “Do it in remembrance of me.” And it’s the one thing that the institutional church has said that you cannot do . . . without a seminary degree and a certificate from them. We like y’all to think that we have Grace in a box, and y’all like to think that you can get it for a price.
“Let a person examine himself (not ‘let the authorities examine you’)” wrote Paul. “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” What body? The Body of Christ. If you damn them, do you not damn yourself?
The Blood of Jesus, “God is salvation,” is judgment on Me-sus, “I am my own salvation,” and We-sus, “My group is salvation.” Me-sus and We-sus are cancer on the Body of Christ. And so, the Blood of Jesus burns the flesh of all, that we would all be one flesh—the Bride of Christ and Body of Christ.
Acts 27:44 “And so it was that all were brought safely to land.”
You are a vessel of immeasurable power for you can offer communion to your neighbor on this sinking ship. You can offer communion: bread and wine. . . and, even more, faith. In a storm, it’s called tharseo. It’s not your plan; it’s God’s plan in you; it’s Christ in you.
This is a continuation of last week’s message, and this is how the Church changes the world: #1) We worship in the darkest of all places and set the captives free. #2) We serve communion to our enemies on this sinking ship, so that all would arrive safely to the Land.