Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire…
This is a really great picture for me: Paul has just spent two weeks being thrown about on a ship which finally wrecks on the shore of Malta; he’s had very little to eat over that same time so he must be feeling a little weak; however, following the swim to shore in the rain and the cold, Paul somehow finds the energy and desire to help the islanders gather firewood. You can be sure most of the men who came off that ship didn’t move a muscle away from that fire. They had been through a lot, so they deserved a rest – right? It is interesting to me how in spite of what he had been through, Paul set aside his personal needs to serve the group. How much better would our world be if each of us followed Paul’s example? What gets in our way?
I’m sure you remember an equally vivid picture from John 13. Before the Passover Feast, Jesus got up from the meal, removed His outer garment, tied a towel around His waist, and began to wash the Disciples’ feet. John 13:6-7, “He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’” Did Peter? I think so because later Peter would write (1 Peter 5:5-6), “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” I think Paul not only understood this concept of humility, but modeled it in the most severe of circumstances: He got up from the warmth of the fire to serve others.
When was the last time you got up from your own misfortune (set aside your own pain) to help someone else? It’s hard to do especially when we are in a difficult time or have just come through a challenging period. We feel entitled to be served. But that is not the example we see modeled by Jesus, Peter, or Paul in our passage today. How can you today demonstrate humility? How can you serve another’s needs? Will you set aside your own?