May 2, 2009

Paul in Philippi - part 4

During Paul and Silas' midnight prison worship service, an earthquake has opened up the doors of the Philippian prison and everyone is unshackled. The earthquake awakens the jailer, who upon surveying the open prison immediately decides suicide is his only option - assuming the prisoners have escaped. Strangely, not one of them is missing. Paul cries out in order to save the jailer from himself, who now seeks lasting salvation from the hand of the Savior. What a dynamic turn of events! Confusion, fear, thoughts of suicide, the metallic rattle of a sword being drawn, despairing of life itself, hope, true freedom. The jailer, roused from sleep by an earthquake and thrown immediately into utter despair, has found rescue at the foot of the cross, led there by the very prisoners he placed within the prison that same night.

Paul and Silas, shown no mercy by the jailer since their arrival, answer his plea with a simple message of mercy. "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." The jailer's heart is changed, demonstrated in washing their wounds, housing, and feeding Paul and Silas. There is much rejoicing in his home, for real life has come to stay. Where death and fear have reigned, rejoicing drives them out as the Lord ascends in the heart of this man and his family.

The next day, the magistrates send their messengers to the jail with instruction to release these two prisoners. Paul insists that the magistrates come themselves and apologize for mistreating him and Silas, who are Roman citizens. Fear boils over in the hearts of the magistrates. They, as rulers in a Roman colony, have abused their fellow contrymen.

Here is the point I find supremely stunning and challenging. Paul and Silas could have asserted their Roman citizenship when all this trouble began, but they didn't. Think about that for a day or three. I'll be back in a few with some more thoughts on this curious turn of events.
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