16:25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
There are few events in the Bible that amaze me more than this one. These men were unjustly beaten and then chained to dark musty prison walls, likely empty of light but full of rats and the moans of other prisoners. How do they react? With prayer and singing. Silence falls throughout the prison. Nothing can be heard but their voices praising their Almighty God who used none of His Might to rescue them.
Suddenly at midnight, the very hour when Satan's strength is supposedly the greatest, the earth begins to shake. Every prison door breaks open. The chains break from the walls. They are free. Every man in the prison is free.
But that's not what amazes me about the story. The amazing part is that no one moves. No one runs away. Why? What held them there after the doors and chains were broken?
We aren't specifically told. Not exactly anyway. But if you have been following this journey of Jesus and His followers you already know they aren't normal. They don't behave like we do. They don't see the world like we do. In our world there are always sides. There is "us" and "them". That was never the case for Jesus. Whether it was a religious leader like Nicodemus or a Samaritan woman with a bad history rejected by her own people Jesus had time for them. Borders and cultural taboos meant nothing to Him. Every person was of infinite value.
Followers of Jesus start to see the world in the same way. Regardless of race, religion, gender, or station in life all are His and all are worthy of finding Him. It was for this reason they came to Macedonia. Never forget that. In our western culture we live for ourselves. Paul and his team live to bring Jesus to the world. God had called them to this heathen place full of idolatry and demon possession. They were needed here and when the prison was shaken open they didn't leave. They were convinced their work in Macedonia was not over so why would they leave? For them it was not an opportunity to escape but an opportunity to serve.
Think about the other prisoners. Never had they heard men like this. They were accustomed to cursing and hollering, not praying and singing. They knew they were in the presence of something unlike anything they had ever experienced before. If Paul and his men were not leaving neither were they. They wanted to see what would happen next.
Then comes the jailer. Convinced in the darkness of midnight that the prison was empty and his own life soon over he is about to end it himself. He is interrupted by the same voice that he had heard singing before he drifted off to sleep. Paul told him not to harm himself because they were all still there.
Think about that. The man who locked painful steel shackles around their beaten wrists and ankles they were now trying to save! My favourite author says this about it: "The severity with which the jailer had treated the apostles had not aroused their resentment. Paul and Silas had the spirit of Christ, not the spirit of revenge. Their hearts, filled with the love of the Saviour, had no room for malice against their persecutors."
Some day I hope to see my enemies this way. I long to see every human being with the eyes and heart of Jesus. I want a heart that is so full of His love that there is no room for anything else.