One Bible scholar writes that there is more about sea travel in the ancient world in the last two chapters of the book of Acts than in all of the documents of antiquity combined.
But what commands our attention reading this is “why?” Why do we need to know this?
There is much about Paul’s life that parallels the life of Jesus. Particularly notice as Acts comes to a close that Paul is tried in a Jewish court once, before Roman procurators twice, and before a Jewish king once. The same was true of Jesus. Jesus was pronounced innocent of any crime three times. So is Paul. Jesus goes to meet his end in full control of the situation. Likewise, on his voyage to Rome, it is as if Paul is in control as well. Though he is a prisoner, he is given a good degree of independence and freedom. Though his advice is not taken initially about when to travel, by the end of the voyage, everyone is listening to and being directed by Paul.
All this is not to say that Paul is another Jesus, but that Paul, as a true disciple, is following in the footsteps of his Lord, and being cared for by God all along the way.
But why does the way have to be so difficult? Repeatedly Luke reminds us “the winds were against us,” “we made slow headway,” “sailing had already become dangerous.” If it was God’s will for Paul to go to Rome, why did the way have to be so hard?
The answer, of course, is that it is easier to see the presence of the Lord when a difficult way is inexplicably smoothed than when the way is easy to begin with. Perhaps that’s what Paul meant when he wrote: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).