Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 19: Year 2
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:25)
Imagine, singing uplifting church hymns while being bound after being whipped. I have heard that this coping mechanism worked for prisoners of war. It got them through the most difficult time in their lives.
Then there was a divine earthquake that released the prisoners. “When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.” (Acts 16: 27 to 34.)
The jailer was well acquainted with the merciless system in which he lived and worked. There would be no excuse for prisoners escaping. He now moves from beating Paul and Silas with rods to using his own sword on himself. Death would be better than the wrath he would face, not to mention the demise of his family and home. But Paul, freed from fetters, still feeling the sting of the rod while singing hymns, calls out to save the jailer from himself. How powerful is this kind of love? Who today would prevent our tormentor from harming himself given the chance? Folks, this is Christian love, this is Agape love. There is nothing else like it in all creation, and it’s ours for the asking.
The jailer was so moved by Paul and Silas that he realized that they had their sights set on a salvation beyond this life. He wanted this, for himself and for his family. “He brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’” Paul tells him and us, “‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ I take this to mean, not just to believe in Jesus, but also to amend one’s life and live in accord with your belief about our Lord Jesus. It means not only not returning evil for evil, but to bless those who curse you, to feed those who, are not only hungry, but have stolen from you. Folks, this is Christian love, this is Agape love. There is nothing else like it in all creation, and it’s ours for the asking. It will save us from ourselves and it brings us salvation.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John