September 8, 2014
Acts 16:29-34 (in context)
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then 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—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
He had a steady job. It wasn’t the best job in town but it paid the bills. He was part of the winning team, the imperial power of Rome itself.
O.K. let’s be honest. He hated his job. How could he not? Yesterday we read where he was three seconds from running himself through with this own sword in response to his prisoners being unshackled by an earthquake. It didn’t matter that it was not his fault. He would take the hit. When word went up the chain on what happened he knew he would likely become a prisoner in the very prison he had been paid to guard. This consequence felt worse than death to him.
The irony keeps getting thicker doesn’t it. We see the prisoners set free only to discover the real captive was the guard himself. His security in the system of Rome proved to be his shackles. Even better, the prisoners who had been set free voluntarily remained imprisoned.
Imagine yourself as the jailer, trying to comprehend the upside down-ness of this situation. This poor guy, who moments ago held absolute power over these prisoners now found himself powerless, and the prisoners who now held the power freely offered it back to him. Their escape from Alcatraz moment had come and gone. They took their get out of jail free card and handed it back to the jailer.
What on earth is going on here!? This is not how the Empire works! Precisely! This is “Thy Kingdom Come!” This is “on earth as it is in Heaven” happening here. The jailer saw it clearly; hence his question, “What must I do to be saved?”
He wasn’t asking about how to go to heaven when he died. “What must I do to be saved,” meant something more like, “How do I get out of this horribly oppressive system of power and fear and into the world you guys are living in?” He wanted out of the so-called Pax Romana and into the Kingdom of God.
The Pax Romana still thrives today. It lives all around us as the mythical “American Dream,” and it causes millions and millions of well meaning people to sell themselves into whatever kind of slavery it takes to acquire it. It takes a glimpse of the dream of God’s Kingdom to awaken people to ask the question, “How do I get out of this and into that?” It’s another way of saying, “What must I do to be saved?”
Now on to the final ironic reversal of the day. Watch as the jailer washes the prisoners’ wounds; the wounds inflicted by the very system he found himself in and now wanted out of. Behold the bigger miracle afoot here: the prisoners baptize the jailer and his whole family as the Holy Spirit cleanses their wounds and initiates them into the Kingdom of God– the New Creation now unfolding.
Marvel at this miracle today. Can you see yourself in it? It is happening everywhere around us all of the time.
COME HOLY SPIRIT!
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