Paul and Silas Escape Prison
Acts 16.25-31 (New Living Translation)
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.”
The questions we’re exploring in this current series of Daily Reflections are:
What does this miracle say about God’s Power? and What does this miracle teach us today about how we engage with those thin moments, when God and the heavenly realm breaks through to earth and upends the natural order for a moment?
In this short passage today, the miracle is indeed miraculous but straight-forward and has a simple, though significant, outcome.
Paul and Silas are in prison, and then the next moment both they and their fellow prisoners are free.
But the longer-term outcome comes in the next set of verses. And that’s about the jailor’s response to this miracle.
Initially he’s terrified, thinking that the prisoners will have escaped on his watch. He’ll get put to death by the authorities for this, so he tries to pre-empt that, and is about to take his own life.
But there is good news for him – and then even more good news too.
The first bit of good news is that his life doesn’t need to end here – because the prisoners haven’t escaped – they’re still here. He’s not going to get into trouble – he’s free of that consequence.
But the second bit of good news is even better – not only does his life not have to end here, but it doesn’t have to end at all – he hears from Paul and Silas about the promise of eternal life – for him and his whole household! He’s not just free of punishment from the authorities – he can be free of punishment for ever!
So, what does this passage teach us about God’s power?
I think it’s this – that it’s not just about the miracle – but about what it leads to.
So often, as we look at the miracles in the Bible – both Old and New Testaments – they’re not just about the event, but about the long-term effect – and often that is about bringing people into the kingdom, planting faith, deepening faith, spreading the good news, dealing with cynicism and doubt.
And so here we have not only the wonderful outcome of Paul and Silas getting out of prison.
But also, a jailor and his household hear God’s salvation and have the opportunity to receive salvation, and to begin their new life with God.
Here in the North East Hub, we have a WhatsApp group that we set up just as the pandemic was starting, so that those of us who’d already been used to praying together could carry on doing that despite the lockdown.
Several times within that group we have seen wonderful little miracles. Cancer diagnoses that have been far less severe than expected. A Christmas hamper finding its way to someone in great need. A severe stroke that the person wasn’t expected to recover from, and 2 days later they were home.
These miracles of healing and provision were wonderful enough in themselves, but the extra gifts have been those of deepened faith and the sharing of the good news, as these wonderful works of God have been experienced and shared.
Why does God work miracles? Because he can! But also, because when those miracles are seen and shared, the miracle of God’s good news, and his promise of salvation and eternal life is also seen and shared.
As Jesus says to Thomas, and as Peter says before the Sanhedrin, and as Paul says to the jailor, these things happen so that they, and we, and all those who hear, might believe, and be saved.
What miracles have you experienced in your life recently?
How might you share the wonder of them, so that others might come to believe, and like the jailor, be saved, along with everyone in their household?
Dear heavenly Father. Thank you for miracles in our lives, from small ones, that we almost take for granted, to huge life-changing ones that blow us away with wonder at you and your love.
Help us not to keep the good news of you and your miracles to ourselves.
Enable us to shake off our British reticence and fear of boasting, and instead to tell all the world of your wonderful deeds.
That many might hear, and wonder, and turn and receive, and be saved!
Through the power of Jesus’ resurrection, and in his mighty name. Amen.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever: Amen.
(North East Hub)