Acts 27: 1-3
When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.
The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs.
Look at the first word in verse 2: “We…” This is Luke writing, he’s a doctor and the author of the Gospel of Luke and also Acts. He’s recording in detail every part of Paul’s journey to his trial before Caesar. However he didn’t just know about Paul’s journey from second-hand information. He was personally with Paul every step of the way.
Some scholars think that Paul’s health wasn’t good by this stage. He had been under house arrest for two years and it’s probably taken its toll on him. So possibly Luke decided that he wanted to travel with Paul to look after him and serve him. It would have cost him personally in terms of time away from home, financially as he would have earned a decent wage as a physician, and also in terms of the risks of the journey and of even being associated with Paul. But Luke is so loyal and devoted to Paul that he’s willing to pay the price.
The text also names someone else who joined the two of them, a man called Aristarchus. We first read about him in Acts 19 when Paul’s preaching causes a riot in the city of Ephesus.
“Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theatre together.” (v 29)
When it says theatre here, they’re not going to the cinema or to see a play. It was the amphitheatre where they fed Christians to the lions. Being a companion of Paul has led to Aristarchus being lynched by a mob who want to kill him.
Paul mentions him again later at the end of his letter to the Colossians:
“My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings….” (Col 4:10)
Aristarchus is in prison with Paul because of his partnership in spreading the Gospel of Jesus. So he’s been lynched, put in jail and he’s about to be almost killed in a shipwreck, all because of his loyalty to and friendship with Paul.
In a world of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, it’s important to understand what real friendship looks like. There’s casual friendship and there’s committed friendship. There’s fair-weather friends and then there’s friends who stay by your side through the storms.
“A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
Of course there are different types and different levels of friendship. There are some people who you remain close to the whole way through your life, you can’t imagine doing life without them. Then there’s other friends who come into your life for a season, and during that time they enrich you and encourage you, but then you are separated and you might never see them again. However you remain deeply thankful for the time you had with them and what you learned from them or received from them.
We also see that here with Paul. Look at verse 3:
“The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs.” (v. 3)
So after one day of sailing the boat docks in Sidon and Paul goes and spends time with some friends who live there. They look after him, they take care of him. They probably weren’t close friends but they were possibly Christians who were part of the church in that area and had met Paul years before when he was passing through on one of his missionary journeys. They are never mentioned anywhere else.
One of the things that I love about being part of God’s huge extended family is that wherever you go in the world you have brothers and sisters. We have the same Father, we have the same Saviour Jesus and we have the same Holy Spirit living inside us. There’s a bond there which nothing can take away.
It’s so important to invest in our friendships. When you face a storm you need as many good, loyal friends around you as possible. As Helen Keller said:
“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”