Last Journey to Jerusalem
Chapter 29

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The narrative of the voyage that will ultimately take Paul to Jerusalem is now resumed in detail. It is quite clear, from Luke’s mode of expression, that the vessel sailed from Miletus on the day of the interview.

With a fair wind she would easily run down to Cos in the course of the same afternoon. The distance is about forty nautical miles; the direction is due south. The phrase used implies a straight course and a fair wind, and we conclude, from the well-known phenomena of the Levant, that the wind was north-westerly, which is the prevalent direction in those seas. With this wind the vessel would make her passage from Miletus to Cos in six hours, passing the shores of Caria, with the high summits of Mount Latmus on the left, and with groups of small islands (among which Patmos (Revelation 1:9) would be seen at times) studding the sea on the right.

Cos is an island about twenty-three miles in length, extending from south-west to north-east, and separated by a narrow channel from the mainland. But we should rather conceive the town to be referred to, which lay at the eastern extremity of the island. It is described by the ancients as a beautiful and well-built city: and it was surrounded with fortifications erected by Alcibiades towards the close of the Peloponnesian war. Its symmetry had been injured by an earthquake, and the restoration had not yet been effected; but the productiveness of the island to which it belonged, and its position in the Levant, made the city a place of no little consequence.

The wine and the textile fabrics of Cos were well known among the imports of Italy. Even now no harbor is more frequented by the merchant-vessels of the Levant. The roadstead is sheltered by nature from all winds except the north-east, and the inner harbor was not then, as is is now, an unhealthy lagoon. Moreover, Claudius had recently bestowed peculiar privileges on the city. Another circumstance made it the resort of many strangers, and gave it additional renown.

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How and where did Paul die?

Cos was the seat of the medical school traditionally connected with Aesculapius; and the temple of the god of healing was crowded with votive models, so as to become in effect a museum of anatomy and pathology. The Christian physician Luke, who knew these coasts so well, could hardly be ignorant of the scientific and religious celebrity of Cos. We can imagine the thankfulness with which he would reflect - as the vessel lay at anchor off the city of Hippocrates - that he had been emancipated from the bonds of superstition, without becoming a victim to that scepticism which often succeeds it, especially in minds familiar with the science of physical phenomena.

On leaving the anchorage of Cos, the vessel would have to proceed through the channel which lies between the southern shore of the island and that tongue of the mainland which terminates in the Point of Cnidus. If the wind continued in the north-west, the vessel would be able to hold a straight course from Cos to Cape Crio , and after rounding the point she would run clear before the wind all the way to Rhodes. Another of Apostle Paul's voyages will lead us to make mention of Cnidus (See Acts 27:7).

We shall, therefore, only say, that the extremity of the promontory descends with a perpendicular precipice to the sea, and that this high rock is separated by a level space from the main, so that, at a distance, it appears like one of the numerous islands on the coast. Its history, as well as its appearance, was well impressed on the mind of the Greek navigator of old; for it was the scene of Conon’s victory; and the memory of their great admiral made the southwestern corner of the Asiatic peninsula to the Athenians what the south-western corner of Spain is to us, through the memories of Vincent and Trafalgar.

We have supposed Apostle Paul's vessel to have rounded Cape Crio, to have left the western shore of Asia Minor, and to be proceeding along the southern shore. The current between Rhodes and the main runs strongly to the westward; but the north-westerly wind would soon carry the vessel through the space of fifty miles to the northern extremity of the island, where its famous and beautiful city was built.

No view in the Levant is more celebrated than that from Rhodes towards the opposite shore of Asia Minor. The last ranges of Mount Taurus come down in magnificent forms to the sea; and a long line of snowy summits is seen along the Lycian coast, while the sea between is often an unruffled expanse of water under a blue and brilliant sky. Across this expanse, and towards a harbor near the farther edge of these Lycian mountains, the Apostle’s course was now directed (Acts 21:1).

To the eastward of Mount Cragus, - the steep sea-front of which is known to the pilots of the Levant by the name of the "Seven Capes," - the river Xanthus winds through a rich and magnificent valley, and past the ruins of an ancient city, the monuments of which, after a long concealment, have lately been made familiar to the British public. The harbor of the city of Xanthus was situated a short distance from the left bank of the river. Patara was to Xanthus what the Piraeus was to Athens; and though this comparison might seem to convey the idea of an importance which never belonged to the Lycian seaport, yet ruins still remain to show that it was once a place of some magnitude and splendor.

The bay into which the river Xanthus flowed is now a "desert of moving sand," which is blown by the westerly wind into ridges along the shore, and is gradually hiding the remains of the ancient city; but a triple archway and a vast theater have been described by travelers. Some have even thought that they have discovered the seat of the oracle of Apollo, who was worshipped here, as his sister Diana was worshipped at Ephesus or Porga: and the city walls can be traced among the sand-hills with the castle that commanded the harbor. In the war against Antiochus, this harbor was protected by a sudden storm from the Roman fleet, when Livius sailed from Rhodes. Now we find the Apostle Paul entering it with a fair wind, after a short sail from the same island.

It seems that the vessel in which Apostle Paul had been hitherto sailing either finished its voyage at Patara, or was proceeding farther eastward along the southern coast of Asia Minor, and not to the ports of Phoenicia. Apostle Paul could not know in advance whether it would be "possible" for him to arrive in Palestine in time for Pentecost (Acts 20:16); but an opportunity presented itself unexpectedly at Patara. Providential circumstances conspired with his own convictions to forward his journey, notwithstanding the discouragement which the fears of others had thrown across his path.

In the harbor of Patara they found a vessel which was on the point of crossing the open sea to Phoenicia (Acts 21:2). They went on board without a moment’s delay; and it seems evident from the mode of expression that they sailed the very day of their arrival. Since the voyage lay across the open sea, with no shoals or rocks to be dreaded, and since the north-westerly winds often blow steadily for several days in the Levant during spring, there could be no reason why the vessel should not weigh anchor in the evening, and sail through the night.

We have now to think of Apostle Paul as no longer passing through narrow channels, or coasting along in the shadow of great mountains, but as sailing continuously through the midnight hours, with a prosperous breeze filling the canvass, and the waves curling and sounding round the bows of the vessel. There is a peculiar freshness and cheerfulness in the prosecution of a prosperous voyage with a fair wind by night. The sailors on the watch, and the passengers also, feel it, and the feeling is often expressed in songs or in long-continued conversation. Such cheerfulness might be felt by the Apostle and his companions, not without thankfulness to that God "who giveth songs in the night" (Job. 35:10), and who hearkeneth to those who fear Him, and speak often to one another, and think upon His name (Malachi 3:16).

If we remember, too, that a month had now elapsed since the moon was shining on the snows of Haemus, and that the full moonlight would now be resting on the great sail of the ship, we are not without an expressive imagery, which we may allowably throw round the Apostle’s progress over the waters between Patara and Tyre.

The distance between these two points is three hundred and forty geographical miles; and if we bear in mind (what has been mentioned more than once) that the north-westerly winds in April often blow like monsoons in the Levant, and that the rig of ancient sailing vessels was peculiarly favorable to a quick run before the wind, we come at once to the conclusion that the voyage might easily be accomplished in forty-eight hours. Every thing in Luke’s account gives a strong impression that the weather was in the highest degree favorable; and there is one picturesque phrase employed by the narrator, which sets vividly before us some of the phenomena of a rapid voyage.

That which is said in the English version concerning the "discovering" of Cyprus, and "leaving it on the left hand," is, in the original, a nautical expression, implying that the land appeared to rise quickly, as they sailed past it to the southward. It would be in the course of the second day (probably in the evening) that "the high blue eastern land appeared." The highest mountain of Cyprus is a rounded summit, and there would be snow upon it at that season of the year. After the second night, the first land in sight would be the high range of Lebanon in Syria (Acts 21:3), and they would easily arrive at Tyre before the evening.

So much has been written concerning the past history and present condition of Tyre, that these subjects are familiar to every reader, and it is unnecessary to dwell upon them here. For my information about Tyre please see our article on the city.

It is probable that the Christians at Tyre were not numerous; but a Church had existed there ever since the dispersion consequent upon the death of Stephen, and Apostle Paul and himself visited it, if not on his mission of charity from Antioch to Jerusalem, yet doubtless on his way to the Council. There were not only disciples at Tyre, but prophets. Some of those who had the prophetical power foresaw the danger which was hanging over Apostle Paul, and endeavored to persuade him to desist from his purpose of going to Jerusalem. We see that different views of duty might be taken by those who had the same spiritual knowledge, though that knowledge were supernatural.

Apostle Paul looked on the coming danger from a higher point. What to others was an overwhelming darkness, to him appeared only as a passing storm. And he resolved to face it, in the faith that He who had protected him hitherto would still give him shelter and safety.

The time spent at Tyre in unlading the vessel, and probably taking in a new cargo, and possibly, also, waiting for a fair wind, was "seven days," including a Sunday. Apostle Paul "broke bread" with the disciples, and discoursed as he had done at Troas; and the week-days, too, would afford many precious opportunities for confirming those who were already Christians, and for making the Gospel known to others, both Jews and Gentiles.

When the time came for the ship to sail, a scene was witnessed on the Phoenician shore like that which had made the Apostle’s departure from Miletus so impressive and affecting. There attended him through the city gate, as he and his companions went out to join the vessel now ready to receive them, all the Christians of Tyre, and even their "wives and children." And there they knelt down and prayed together on the level shore.

We are not to imagine here any Jewish place of worship, like the proseucha at Philippi; but simply that they were on their way to the ship. The last few moments were precious, and could not be so well employed as in praying to Him who alone can give true comfort and protection. The time spent in this prayer was soon passed. And then they tore themselves from each other’s embrace; the strangers went on board, and the Tyrian believers returned home sorrowful and anxious, while the ship sailed southwards on her way to Ptolemais.

It is evident that Apostle Paul's company sailed from Tyre to Ptolemais within the day. At the latter city, as at the former, there were Christian disciples, who had probably been converted at the same time and under the same circumstances as those of Tyre. Another opportunity was afforded for the salutations and encouragement of brotherly love; but the missionary party stayed here only one day. Though they had accomplished the voyage in abundant time to reach Jerusalem at Pentecost, they hastened onwards, that they might linger some days at Caesarea.

One day’s traveling by land was sufficient for this part of their journey. The distance is between thirty and forty miles. At Caesarea there was a Christian family, already known to us in the earlier passages of the Acts of the Apostles, with whom they were sure of receiving a welcome.

The last time we made mention of Philip the Evangelist was when he was engaged in making the Gospel known on the road which leads southwards by Gaza towards Egypt, about the time when Apostle Paul himself was converted on the northern road, when traveling to Damascus. Now, after many years, the Apostle and the Evangelist are brought together under one roof.

On the former occasion, we saw that Caesarea was the place where the labors of Philip on that journey ended. Thenceforward it became his residence if his life was stationary, or it was the center from which he made other missionary circuits through Judea. He is found, at least, residing in this city by the sea, when Apostle Paul arrives in the year 58 from Achaia and Macedonia.

His family consisted of four daughters, who were an example of the fulfillment of that prediction of Joel, quoted by Peter, which said, that, at the opening of the new dispensation, God’s Spirit should come on His "handmaidens" as well as His bondsmen, and that the "daughters," as well as the sons, should prophesy. The prophetic power was granted to these four women at Caesarea, who seem to have been living that life of single devotedness which is commended by Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7), and to have exercised their gift in concert for the benefit of the Church.

It is not improbable that these inspired women gave Apostle Paul some intimation of the sorrows which were hanging over him. But soon a. more explicit voice declared the very nature of the trial he was to expect. The stay of the Apostle at Caesarea lasted some days (verse 10). He had arrived in Judea in good time before the festival, and haste was now unnecessary. Thus news reached Jerusalem of his arrival; and a prophet named Agabus - whom we have seen before coming from the same place on a similar errand - went down to Caesarea, and communicated to Apostle Paul and the company of Christians by whom he was surrounded a clear knowledge of the impending danger. His revelation was made in that dramatic form which impresses the mind with a stronger sense of reality than mere words can do, and which was made familiar to the Jews of old by the practice of the Hebrew prophets.

As Isaiah (Isaiah 20) loosed the sackcloth from his loins, and put off his shoes from his feet, to declare how the Egyptian captives should be led away into Assyria naked and barefoot, - or as the girdle of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 13), in its strength and its decay, was made a type of the people of Israel in their privilege and their fall, - Agabus, in like manner, using the imagery of action, took the girdle of Apostle Paul, and fastened it round his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus saith the Holy Spirit: So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man to whom this girdle belongs, and they shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles."

The effect of this emphatic prophecy, both on Luke, Aristarchus, and Trophimus, the companions of Apostle Paul's journey, and those Christians of Caesarea, who, though they had not traveled with him, had learnt to love him, was very great. They wept, and implored him not to go to Jerusalem. But the Apostle himself could not so interpret the supernatural intimation. He was placed in a position of peculiar trial.

A voice of authentic prophecy had been so uttered, that, had he been timid and wavering, it might easily have been construed into a warning to deter him. Nor was that temptation unfelt which arises from the sympathetic grief of loving friends. His affectionate heart was almost broken when he heard their earnest supplications and saw the sorrow that was caused by the prospect of his danger; but the mind of the Spirit had been so revealed to him in his own inward convictions, that he could see the Divine counsel through apparent hinderances.

Paul's resolution was "no wavering between yea and nay, but was yea in Jesus Christ." His deliberate purpose did not falter for a moment. He declared that he was "ready not only to be bound, but to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." And then they desisted from their entreaties. Their respect for the Apostle made them silent. They recognized the will of God in the steady purpose of His servant, and gave their acquiescence in those words in which Christian resignation is best expressed:"The will of the Lord be done."

The time was now come for the completion of the journey. The festival was close at hand. Having made the arrangements that were necessary with regard to their luggage, - and such notices in Holy Scripture should receive their due attention, for they help to set before us all the reality of the Apostle’s journeys, - he and the companions who had attended him from Macedonia proceeded to the Holy City. Some of the Christians of Caesarea went along with them, not merely, as it would seem, to show their respect and sympathy for the Apostolic company, but to secure their comfort on arriving, by taking him to the house of Mnason, a native of Cyprus, who had been long ago converted to Christianity, - possibly during the life of our Lord Himself, - and who may have been one of those Cyprian Jews who first made the Gospel known to the Greeks at Antioch.

Thus we have accompanied Apostle Paul on his last recorded journey to Jerusalem. It was a journey full of incident; and it is related more minutely than any other portion of his travels. We know all the places by which he passed, or at which he stayed; and we are able to connect them all with familiar recollections of history. We know, too, all the aspect of the scenery.

Paul sailed along those coasts of Western Asia, and among those famous islands, the beauty of which is proverbial. The very time of the year is known to us. It was when the advancing season was clothing every low shore, and the edge of every broken cliff, with a beautiful and refreshing verdure; when the winter storms had ceased to be dangerous, and the small vessels could ply safely in shade and sunshine between neighboring ports. Even the state of the weather and the direction of the wind are known. We can point to the places on the map where the vessel anchored for the night, and trace across the chart the track that was followed, when the moon was full. Yet more than this.

We are made fully aware of the state of the Apostle’s mind, and of the burdened feeling under which this journey was accomplished. The expression of this feeling strikes us the more from its contrast with all the outward circumstances of the voyage. He sailed in the finest season, by the brightest coasts, and in the fairest weather; and yet his mind was occupied with forebodings of evil from first to last; - so that a peculiar shade of sadness is thrown over the whole narration. If this be true, we should expect to find some indications of this pervading sadness in the letters written about this time; for we know how the deeper tones of feeling make themselves known in the correspondence of any man with his friends.

Accordingly, we do find in the Epistle written to the Romans, shortly before leaving Corinth, a remarkable indication of discouragement, and almost despondency, when he asked the Christians at Rome to pray that, on his arrival in Jerusalem, he might be delivered from the Jews who hated him, and be well received by those Christians who disregarded his authority. The depressing anxiety with which he thus looked forward to the journey would not be diminished, when the very moment of his departure from Corinth was beset by a Jewish plot against his life. And we find the cloud of gloom, which thus gathered at the first, increasing and becoming darker as we advance.

At Philippi and at Troas, indeed, no direct intimation is given of coming calamities; but it is surely no fancy which sees a foreboding shadow thrown over that midnight meeting, where death so suddenly appeared among those that were assembled there with many lights in the upper chamber, while the Apostle seemed unable to intermit his discourse, as "ready to depart on the morrow."

For indeed at Miletus he said, that already "in every city" the Spirit had admonished him that bonds and imprisonment were before him. At Miletus it is clear that the heaviness of spirit under which he started had become a confirmed anticipation of evil. When he wrote to Rome, he hoped to be delivered from the danger he had too much reason to fear. Now his fear predominates over hope; and he looks forward, sadly but calmly, to some imprisonment not far distant. At Tyre, the first sounds that he hears on landing are the echo of his own thoughts. He is met by the same voice of warning, and the same bitter trial for himself and his friends.

At Caesarea his vague forebodings of captivity are finally made decisive and distinct, and he has a last struggle with the remonstrances of those whom he loved. Never had he gone to Jerusalem without a heart full of emotion, - neither in those early years, when he came an enthusiastic boy from Tarsus to the school of Gamaliel, - nor on his return from Damascus, after the greatest change that could have passed over an inquisitor’s mind, - nor when he went with Barnabas from Antioch to the Council, which was to decide an anxious controversy.

Now Paul had much new experience of the insidious progress of error, and of the sinfulness even of the converted. Yet his trust in God did not depend on the faithfulness of man; and he went to Jerusalem calmly and resolutely, though doubtful of his reception among the Christian brethren, and not knowing what would happen on the morrow.

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