Acts 27: 2-3
We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.
The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs.
A few years back a well-known American Football coach called Pepper Rogers was going through a terrible season. He was very upset about it, and he didn't think his wife was encouraging him enough. He said, "My dog is my best friend. I told my wife that a man needs at least two friends. She told me to go buy another dog."
In tough times, we need faithful friends.
Look at that first word here in verse 2: "We..." This is Luke writing, he’s a doctor and the author of the Gospel of Luke and also this book Acts. He’s recording in detail every part of Paul’s journey to his trial before Caesar. But he didn’t just know about Paul’s journey from second-hand information. He was personally with Paul every step of the way.
Some scholars think that Paul’s health wasn’t good by this stage. He’s been under arrest for 2 years and it’s probably taken it’s toll on him. Possibly Luke, who like doctors today would have earned a good wage, decided: 'I want to go with Paul to look after him and minister to him, serve him and make sure he’s OK.' It would have cost him personally, both financially but also in terms of the risks of the journey and of even being associated with Paul. However Luke is so loyal and devoted to Paul that he’s willing to pay the price.
Then it also names someone else who joined the 2 of them: Aristarchus. We first read about him in Acts 19 when Paul’s preaching causes a riot in the city of Ephesus.
“Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theatre together.” (v 29)
When it says theatre here – they’re not going to the cinema or to see a play. It was the amphitheatre where they fed people to the lions. So being a companion of Paul has led to Aristarchus being lynched by a mob who want to kill him. Paul mentions him again later at the end of his letter to the Colossians:
“My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings….” (Col 4:10)
Aristarchus is in prison with Paul because of his partnership in spreading the Gospel of Jesus. So he’s been lynched, put in jail, and he’s about to be nearly killed in a shipwreck – all because of his loyalty and friendship with Paul.
There’s casual friendship and there’s committed covenant friendship..
There’s fair weather and sunshine friends – then there’s storm and shipwreck friends.
Proverbs 17:17 says: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
Proverbs 18: 24 says: “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Jesus, the night before he went to the cross, looked at his followers and said this: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…I no longer call you servants….Instead, I have called you friends.” (Jn 15: 13-15)
Of course there are different types and different levels of friendship. There are some people who you remain close to the whole way through your life. You can’t imagine doing life without them. Luke and Aristarchus seem to have been that type of friend to Paul. No matter what comes – should it be hell or high water – we’ll be at your side.
But then there’s other friends who come into your life for a season, and while they’re there, they enrich you and encourage you. Then either you or they move on and you might never see them again. But you’re deeply thankful for the time you had with them and what you learned from them or received from them.
We also see that here with Paul. Look at verse 3: “The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs.” (v. 3)
So after one day of sailing the boat docks in Sidon and Paul goes and spends some time with friends who live there and they look after him. They probably weren’t close friends, but they were Christians who belonged to the church there and had maybe met Paul years before when he was on one of his missionary journeys and was passing through their area. We don’t know because they are never mentioned anywhere else.
That’s one of the things I love about being part of God’s family. Wherever you go in the world you have brothers and sisters. We have the same Father, we have the same Saviour Jesus and we have the same Holy Spirit living inside us. There’s a bond there which nothing can take away.
Invest in your friendships. They are more valuable than you probably realise. When storms come, which they will, good friendships help make you unsinkable.