The final chapter of Acts is really split into 2 main parts: On the island of Malta, and then in Rome.
Malta is absolutely gorgeous, and has one of the best climates in the world, so of all the places to run aground, it’s not bad. And to top it off, the people there were incredibly kind and none of them knew Jesus yet.
Acts 28:1-2 1 After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold.
3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand.
So, the people on Malta said, Acts 28:4 “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.”
But, then, he didn’t swell up and he didn’t die, so the people of Malta they changed their minds and said that he was a god. This passage doesn't tell us how Paul responded, but it was probably pretty similar to another time people thought he was a God, in Acts 14:15. He said: 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.
After that, they were brought to the Chief of the island and his father was dying of fever and dysentery, so Paul prayed for healing and shared Jesus with him. Then he was brought all over to island to EVERYONE who was sick to do the same thing.
Remember, Paul is still technically in prison, and so much good has come from it:
Paul shared the gospel with a huge group of Jews outside of the temple
Paul shared the gospel with the Chief Priests and the counsel in Jerusalem, including the Pharisees AND the Sadducees
Paul shared the Gospel with Felix the governor, and his wife Drusilla, FOR 2 YEARS
Paul shared the gospel with King Agrippa and the new governor, Festus
Paul shared the gospel with his guard named Julius, along with 276 people on the ship, all of which he saved the lives of
Paul shared the gospel with an ENTIRE ISLAND NATION who had FOR SURE never heard the gospel before
Prison wasn't God's Plan B for Paul, this was Plan A!
God never gives us the whole picture of what He's doing. He gives us a single puzzle piece and we need to trust Him, to build the whole puzzle. That’s what Paul is going through here. For his entire adult Christian life, he’s been the one on the front lines and now he’s in prison on this weird Gospel tour through the mediterranean. And then here in Acts chapter 28, he makes it to Rome, where the Book of Acts ends in a way that feels very anticlimactic:
Acts 28:30-31 30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Taken at face value, and looking only at the picture of Paul, it feels anti-climactic. But, Paul didn’t try to make his own picture, he laid down the puzzle piece that he had been faithfully building for the last 27 years, and he picked up a new one, trusting God for the puzzle itself.
That new puzzle piece, wasn’t good, it was EXTRAORDINARY… and this wasn’t the end, it was the beginning of a new chapter.
Paul transitioned into being the one who raised up the next generation to take it further than he ever could. In those 2 years, he wrote Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, and he invested deeply in Timothy through discipleship.
As the story of Acts comes to a close, he does end up getting out of prison, and does 4 more years of missionary work, but the tone of this work changed.