Google+ 12/09/12 Who's the Prisoner Here?

Acts 16:25-34

 

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,

And the other prisoners were listening.

Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations.

All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!

The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open.

He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself.

 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.

 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved,

Along with everyone in your household.”

And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household.

Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds.

Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.

He brought them into his house and set a meal before them,

And he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God. 

 

Things are often not what they seem.  Our interpretation of events can often be the demise of people and situations.  Such is the case with our Scripture today.  Let's set the scene.  Paul and Silas have traveled to Philippi, a major city in Macedonia.  It is obviously part of the Roman empire and Philippi lays on a road often used by the Roman militia.  Paul and Silas encounter a woman named Lydia who is possessed with evil spirits.  Day after day, Paul and Silas encounter this troubled woman.  We are led to believe that Lydia is functioning as a medium for a wealthy master in the area.  Paul becomes so distraught by the possession of this woman by demons, that he orders the demons to depart her in the name of Jesus Christ.  The masters complain that Paul and Silas have ruined this medium by removing the spirits she was using to assist them in their debauchery.  They are preaching Jesus which is strictly forbidden.  For these reasons, they are thrown in jail.  Enter our Scripture lesson for today.  At midnight, Paul and Silas are sitting in their jail cell singing hymns to God and praying, while the other prisoners are listening.  Suddenly, there is a massive earthquake.  All the cell doors fling themselves open and all the chains fall off of all the prisoners.  The jailer is convinced that there is going to be a prison break.  The punishment for loosing prisoners in the Roman Empire would have been certain death, so the jailer was understandably concerned!  The Scripture tells us that the jailer is about to take his own life.  Paul, the prisoner, comforts the jailer and tells him not to worry.  Don't miss this central point.  The earthquake did not happen so the prisoners could escape.  That would probably be our earthly interpretation.  The earthquake occurred to convert the jailer!   Yes, I said convert the jailer.   The jailer had been listening to Paul and Silas singing and praying.      Notice what happens next.  The jailer falls on his knees and asks Paul what he needs to do to be saved.    Paul tells him what he must do.  Don't miss the next important point.  The jailer's faith is also going to be responsible for converting his entire family!  As soon as everyone proclaimed Jesus as their personal Savior, the Scripture tells us that they were all baptized.  The evening ends with the jailer caring for the prisoner's wounds and serving a huge, celebratory meal.  The family is seen rejoicing in their new-found salvation in Jesus.  Be careful when you are presented with extreme situations.  Don't be selfish.  Would it not have been easier for all the prisoners to flee?  Would you have run?  I might have if I was not conditioned to be like Paul.  In this adversity, Paul recognized what God was doing.  The earthquake was not about him, but about the jailer.  If you will, God wanted to free the jailer from HIS prison.  Today as you walk with God, recognize how the extreme situations in your life might be used for God's glory, not yours.  Use them wisely and for God's welfare.  There may be a jailer in your life today.  Don't miss the opportunity to free him from his cell, even if you appear to be locked in yours.  God will take care of you if you take care of the jailer.