After three months, we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him. (Acts 28:11-16)
The Kindness Of Brethren
Travel in the first century was often a harrowing experience. Taking a ship throughout the Mediterranean was a risky adventure with sudden storms and unpredictable weather. Paul’s journey to Rome was very difficult and sometimes uncertain of the outcome. Earlier he and the crew experienced a tempestuous head wind called Euroclydon that drove the ship violently for many days. There seemed to be no hope but Paul assured the crew God would protect them. The ship, along with its 276 souls aboard, shipwrecked on the island of Malta. No one died and they spent three months there until they found another ship to continue the voyage to Rome.
A few days after leaving Malta, the ship arrived at Puteoli, located on the northern bay of Naples (about eight miles northwest). It was here Luke records they found some brethren and were invited to stay with them seven days. Continuing the journey to Rome the brethren came and met Paul, Luke and company at Appii Forum and Three Inns. Appii Forum was over fifty miles from Rome as well as Three Inns. When Paul saw the brethren who had travelled all the way from Rome, he was very thankful and greatly encouraged. These brethren were a blessing to Paul and he acknowledged them.
When the group arrived in Puteoli, Paul sought out brethren. He needed to spend time with the people of God. Because he was allowed great freedom in his activities, the apostles was refreshed by spending seven days with fellow saints. Luke does not tell us all they did but most certain they talked of the gospel, communed in worship on the first day of the week and reveled in the glorious fellowship of Christians. This was vital to the encouragement of the apostle Paul and those who travelled with him. The brethren at Puteoli were not ashamed of the chains of Paul. Their love for God was such a powerful testimony for Paul.
Turning the camera back a few days, we see the brethren at Rome hearing of Paul’s coming. Uncertain when he will arrive because of the troubles of ancient world travel, they waited anxiously to hear news. Learning he had landed safely and was on his way, the brethren talked of what they could do. Someone suggested they should travel to meet the apostle. Appii Forum was 56 miles away. Without the means of modern transportation this would be quite a sacrifice to make such a trip. Without hesitation, the brethren gathered the necessary supplies and began the long trek to Appii Forum. What joy they had when they saw Paul. The final part of the apostle’s journey to Rome (56 miles) was filled with the encouragement, joy, happiness and kindness of the Roman brethren.
It is the little things that matter so much so often. Whether the brethren had ever met Paul or not mattered little. It is doubtful many of the brethren from Puteoli and Rome knew Paul face to face. But their brother in Christ was on his way to Rome as a prisoner. Their hearts were full of a benevolent spirit to do what they could to encourage this fellow saint. The seven days in Puteoli must have remained in the mind of Paul all his life. Those good brethren who took the time to travel more than fifty miles to see the apostle would never be forgotten by him.
The kindness of brethren – it reaches far beyond the borders of nations and lands. Reaching back two thousand years, we see the simple efforts of the people of God looking out for others. The church is filled with those who take the time to share a smile, hold a hand, speak a word, prepare a meal, open a house, be a friend to young people, show love to others; a myriad of examples of people like the Puteolians and Romans who showed the apostle Paul what brotherly love is all about. Now that is a great story.
When you see your brother, you see God. (Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, 150)