Acts 20:13 – 24
We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. The next day we sailed from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible by the day of Pentecost.
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardship are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
In this scene, we see Paul stepping aboard a ship. The text makes reference to several portions of his travels from Greece through Asia, various island ports, before arriving in Jerusalem. The elders of Ephesus gather and bid him farewell. Paul’s speech to them parallel’s Jesus conversation with the apostles at the Last Supper. Paul refers to his task; he refers to his successes and opposition; he refers to potential dangers he will face; he refers to his apprehension and his loyalty to fulfill God’s direction. In contrast to Jesus at the Last Supper and in the Garden of Gesemity, Paul does not know how this will play out.
The image we see, as he boards the ship, is reminiscent of both the Last Supper and the Betrayal by Judas (though no one is betraying him here). He is surrounded by the elders, one whom he embraces, while he points to his separate direction to follow. They look intently at him. Are they wishing him safety? Are they beseeching him to stay or travel a different direction? He gestured his path is on the ship. Behind him stands a thick mast, with a full sail. Maybe I have looked at too many crucifixion paintings, but the cross is the symbol I see in the background.