Yesterday we read about how salvation disturbs unjust economic systems. Today the story continues, and we learn that salvation also disrupts unjust power dynamics.
Paul and Silas are thrown in jail. The jailer is charged with making sure they stay there. At midnight during a prayer and praise service, an earthquake breaks the locks of the jail. The jailer sees the jail cells open and assumes the prisoners have escaped. He takes responsibility for their escape and attempts to kill himself. Having failed to fulfill the responsibility given him by his authorities, he knows that same authority will require him to pay with his life.
What he doesn’t anticipate is that Paul and Silas have not used their freedom to escape from prison. They recognize that they have a higher calling than just getting out of jail; theirs is a spiritual calling for the salvation of souls. So they let the jailer know they are still there.
The jailer is flabbergasted. He knows how these things work. Prisoners don’t voluntarily stay in jail. He demands to know why they haven’t left. Once they tell him about Jesus, he is so moved that he wants to exchange his current authority, which requires him to take his life, for the authority of Jesus, which requires him to lay down his life for the freedom of others.
The jailer asks Paul and Silas how he can be saved in this way. They tell him to “believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” This means trusting that Jesus’ counter-cultural way of life really is Life. It means trusting that Jesus’ rescue mission in the world is worth giving your life to. It means using your freedom to serve others so they can know the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Where can you use your freedom this week for the salvation of souls?
How did you first hear about the gospel? Was it from your family or a friend? Or was it from a completely unexpected source? This week’s readings remind us that God uses many different techniques of revelation. Paul and Silas are in prison in Philippi, and the guard of the prison has no idea that he is about to encounter the power of God and come to faith. The psalmist says that creation itself reveals God’s glory and power. In Revelation, Jesus speaks directly about his future return and reign, as attested by his messenger and by the Spirit. Jesus prays in John for his followers, because through their unity the gospel will be proclaimed to others. Although Jesus ascends to heaven, the revelation of his plan and purpose does not end.
Read Acts 16:16-34. Recall a difficult time in your life. Were you able to continue to praise God through this time?
Read Psalm 97. Write your own word picture of what it means to be a child of God, who is in control.
Read Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21. How has Jesus’ invitation to partake of the water of life changed you?
Read John 17:20-26. What signs of division do you see in your community? How can you work toward the oneness to which God calls us?
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