A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 24:33-38. c) The call to take food.
Dawn was about to break when Paul made his third intervention, urging everybody to eat because they had not done so for a fortnight, either because of the *constant suspense* (33), or because of seasickness, or because the food supplies had been saturated, or because cooking had been impossible in the gale. But now he pressed them to eat in order to survive, for, he added, seemingly with an allusion to the teaching of Jesus (Lk. 21:18; cf. Mt. 10:30), none of them would lose even a single hair (34). With that he set them an example, gave thanks publicly for the food, and began to eat. Because of the sequence that he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and ate, some have depicted this as a Eucharist. But neither the occasion nor the gathering of unbelieving soldiers, sailors and prisoners, was appropriate for this. It was surely an ordinary meal, although the food was consecrated by thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-5). As a result, the rest of the ship’s company were *encouraged* (it is the same word as in verses 22 and 25) and followed his example (36). It is at this point that Luke mentions the number of people on board as 276 (37); had they perhaps been counted for the sake of the distribution of food? Having eaten as much as they wanted, the rest of the grain cargo was jettisoned (38).
Here then are aspects of Paul’s character which endear him to us as an integrated Christian, who combined spirituality with sanity, and faith with works. He believed that God would keep his promises and had the courage to say grace in the presence of a crowd of hard-bitten pagans. But his trust and godliness did not stop him seeing either that the ship should not take risks with the onset of winter, or that the sailors must not be allowed to escape, or that the hungry crew and passengers had to eat to survive, or (later) that he needed to gather wood to keep the beach fire burning. What a man! He was a man of God and of action, a man of the Spirit and of common sense.
Tomorrow: Acts 27:39 – 28:10. Shipwreck on Malta.