Hello, I’m James and I’m part of the team here at STC. This year we are considering a theme of Join Us and Grow. One of the ways we’ve engaged with this theme is through STC’s GROW project which is a discipling opportunity the church family can access by contacting the main office. One of the other main opportunities we have prioritised this year is this podcast… it has been a significant thing for many of us to engage with the Bible daily. If it’s been useful to you in these few minutes we have together, why not consider passing it along to a friend or colleague, or even someone you know who has joined the church recently and perhaps hasn’t heard about the podcast yet? We can’t afford a city-wide bus campaign and we rely on word of mouth from people like you to get the Bible into the hands of people wanting to grow. Have a think towards the end of this reflection – who else could benefit from listening in to this conversation today?
Yesterday and today we are looking at two stories of how Jesus changes lives. Yesterday was the story of Lydia in Philippi and today we hear about a Jailer who encounters Jesus. Both very different people, and we are asking who they are, what Jesus means to them and how they are impacted.
What kind of man was this Philippian Jailer?
Well we learn from today’s passage that he was a careful man but a bit brutal. Let me read v23 & 24 now to help us to understand this point and we can all hear the reading in full at the end of this podcast to make the connections again.
After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
So we read that Paul and Silas have been severely flogged by a crowd, in front of town officials but without trial; unfairly bruised, broken and bloody, they are handed to the jailer and he’s commanded to guard them carefully. It is interesting to note his interpretation of carefully. He listens, and locks them in the inner cell and fastens them in stocks.
Two things to draw out from us here that I found in a commentary by Tom Wright when prepping for this podcast. Firstly, he didn’t wash their wounds. He didn’t bandage them up… not here, not until verse 33 after he has encountered Jesus, only then does he do something nice for them. Secondly, he puts them in the inner cell, which means as far away as possible from the light and from the air. He also fastened their feet in stocks. He wasn’t asked to do any of this. He is a careful man, if not also a bit brutal. When we think of stocks we might think of Robin Hood and his merry men – and rotten fruit being thrown at a showcased prisoner. What I’ve read that we are hearing about here is that it was a form of torture. Their limbs are being stretched further than is comfortable, it’s cramp-inducing torture. This guy is very unlike the savvy business woman Lydia we read about yesterday.
This is not someone Paul could start talking with about who Jesus was straight away. Paul talked to Lydia right away because she was open… she was at a place of prayer and looking for God. This guy was not open to a conversation. Paul had to show this man how Jesus had powerfully transformed his life, and that is what he does. To briefly outline a story we will hear in full shortly, the jailer sees two amazing things in Paul and Silas. He sees joy in someone suffering and kindness from someone who received his cruelty.
How do we know that?
Well, in chains they are praising God. When the chains are gone, they stay and uphold the law, convincing others to stay in the jail also. In that culture and in that job it was a life for a life. If the jailer had lost his prisoners he would have been killed. Their act of kindness spared the jailer his life. His reply is iconic. Something we hope all our friends might say to us one day: v30 “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Showing us again that this is a man of action. He was probably expecting a list of instructions to turn his life around and their reply is “believe. Have faith.” v31 “31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
It is that simple, it doesn’t matter if you are strong or weak, male or female, good or bad. Salvation is free to all. All we need is to believe in Jesus – who he was, what he said and we will be saved.
Two things that happen next and this is the part where we look to apply it to our lives also.
I’ve alluded to one thing already.
Faith in Jesus makes you kind. We sometimes call it doing good. Even a tough guy like the Philippian Jailer now is washing the wounds and mending the bones of these broken blokes in his jail.
Finally, faith in Jesus places you in a family. The final words in this passage today tell us that he and “his whole 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.” The Christian faith is a personal thing but it is not a private thing. The good news is too good to keep to ourselves. This transformed life multiplies into a transformed household. You can imagine the stories around the dinner table that evening.
The church is a family. You are missed when you are not there – wherever you worship. Baptism is a sign that you belong to that family. If you have never done it, I would totally recommend it. 🙂
Pray about it and ask God to speak to you today about faith, kindness and family.
Jesus, thank you for these two stories we have considered today. The truth about who Jesus is, really is for everyone. Give us faith to believe it today. Where we can have conversations about you, would they flow thick and fast. Where we need to demonstrate your transformational power, would our lives shine bright like stars for the glory of God. Amen.
BIBLE READING:Acts 16:22-34
The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’
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 baptised. 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.