39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.
42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely. Acts 27:39-44
When your ship has run aground, the best thing to do is to abandon ship quickly. Nobody knew how much damage there was or how long the ship would stay intact and afloat given the storms they had just gone through.
The soldiers’ first thought was to take out the prisoners. Perhaps it was for self-preservation, i.e., if the prisoners had escaped, it was the soldiers’ neck on the line.
But the centurian had found favor with Paul and called off the soldiers.
The centurian himself did what the soldiers were trying to do: save their own lives. He told them to get to land by any means necessary. While he didn’t say “don’t worry about the prisoners”, it was implied.
Julius – the centurian – was a man who tried to do what was right. He had heard Paul preach numerous times so he knew the truth. We don’t know if Julius ever believed the Gospel message. We do know that he prevented Paul’s certain death. In that sense, he unwittingly expanded the kingdom of God because it enabled Paul to visit many more places to teach and preach.
Sometimes the most unlikely person will be your ally when you need it the most.