1 When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. 3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god. 7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us courteously three days. 8 And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. 9 After this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured. 10 They also honored us with many marks of respect; and when we were setting sail, they supplied us with all we needed.
As Paul continues to experience God’s providence in His promise, he is running the risk of being worshipped as a god. I’m actually intrigued that this issue wasn’t addressed after the viper incident because at least Luke knew what the local people were saying about Paul. When we begin to live in the Kingdom of God, we will start turning heads and causing many questions to arise. If Paul was allowed to walk around the island visiting people in their homes, why didn’t he also speak? Was this a mistake on his part? Was he told by the Holy Spirit not to speak? Even we as readers of this story many years later have questions about Paul’s behavior.
Paul’s protection against the snake and the opportunity to heal those on the island provided for the crew of almost 300 so they could be on their way. Perhaps an in depth explanation of the Gospel would have caused them to not be able to leave. Luke records that they were guests in the leader’s house for days but nothing of the discussions they had. While it appears rare that Luke did not record this, contemplate until now how much Luke had written. Now think about the repetitiveness there would have been in recording it once more: that after the miraculous signs, Paul gained the attention of others and started sharing the Gospel. It is possible that Luke left it out because it was a normal occurrence; why wouldn’t Paul share the gospel? In fact, the rare occurrence would be if Paul did not preach the gospel for some reason and Luke would have been more inclined to record that instead of what usually happens. Additionally, the very method Paul used to heal people revealed God’s Kingdom not just through power, but also by prayer. He didn’t just walk around smacking people yelling, “be healed!” He prayed and asked for God to heal the people with whom he was interacting.
The Book of Acts is the “new normal” for those who are born again. It reveals how God works in and through us by way of the Holy Spirit and what God’s Kingdom penetrating the world is supposed to look like. For us as supposed Christians, we read this account in wonder and awe because we do not experience it in our own lives. We are amazed and even doubtful of the possibility of these things because it is hard to believe it is true. Many times we question stories like this thinking, “well, if we are supposed to be out healing people, why isn’t it happening more?” Yet we put the blame on others instead of ourselves. We aren’t seeking God’s reign here on earth, we are securing our own and when confronted with little truths like this, we put the blame on others. This is why Jesus said in Matthew 6:
[quote]32 “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.[/quote]
We worry about the inconsequential things of life: food, clothing, and shelter. Jesus said these are nothing compared to the importance of living in the Kingdom of God, so first seek out His Kingdom and the other stuff will be taken care of for us. This is the new normal. We are to seek God and His reign in every area of our lives instead of being concerned about earthly things. “Well, that takes a lot of faith,” you might say. That’s exactly the point! As we begin and continue to seek out God’s Kingdom and live in it, our faith will grow because we will experience little occurrences of the providence of God like not dying from a viper bite or healing the sick in our free time. THIS. IS. NORMAL.