27 November 2017

Good morning and welcome to today’s Podcast. This week is the last week before we enter into the Advent season. Our focus will shift from the early church to reflect on the Christmas story: the prophecies and the events surrounding Jesus’ birth… More about the birth of Jesus next week. But that means that we have some unfinished business in Acts. We will draw to a close our time in Acts over the next 5 days…

REFLECTION

Today we pick up where Dave left off 10 days ago, with Paul and Silas in Philippi. Today’s reading is from Acts 16:22-34. Listen through to the end and you will hear it in full, but for now I am going to focus on v30-31.

[the jailer] 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.”

The question is from a prison guard who, on discovering the prison doors wide open was about to take his own life. If you are a prison guard and your prisoners escape the power in the land… Caesar… at his orders, you… the guard pay… with your life!

So his question is not some spiritual musing… he is not talking about where he might end up after death. The jailer’s concern is very real and very desperate… it is the cry of a man with the death penalty hanging over his head.

Have you ever been caught out… caught red handed… when you know the consequences of your actions are severe?

If the jailer’s prisoners leave he dies… so he cries out Kurios… here translated ‘sirs’.

It’s the same word that Paul and Silas use in their response… Believe in the Kurios Jesus…

It’s the same word for Lord, Master, Owner, the one who has ownership of my life.

The jailer will die if they leave… He knows it… he lets them know he knows it by the sword in his hand at his own throat and the way he addresses them… Master… what must I do to be saved… delivered from this threat on my life? What duty must I perform? What can I do so that you will spare my life?

The jailer’s desire is to save his own skin…. In this moment… he is indebted to Paul and Silas… they could ask anything of him… anything up to his very life… Riches, his servitude, an audience with his superiors… They could have from the Jailer anything… Everything… for the rest of his days.

Paul and Silas refuse his request… they refuse his request to be made Lord, master, owner of this man’s life… they don’t want anything from him. They ask for nothing! What’s more… so much more… they are prepared to sacrifice their own freedom to see the Jailer set free. They are prepared to allow the injustice which is being done to them take its course rather than demand anything from this man. He owes them everything… instead… They give him everything.

Does this sound familiar?

Does this sound right?

This is the same exchange that Jesus made for you and me at the cross… we owe him everything… instead he gives us everything… so that we might be free… free to love and set others free.

But this isn’t how the world works… When in a position of power – as Paul and Silas are – when they could exercise that power for their own advantage, to get their own way, to take revenge… to put things right… Come on Paul, come on Silas, do the right thing… what you have done is just plain wrong!

Like the jailer, have you ever done anything wrong? Have you ever been caught out? Have you ever been confronted by the consequences of your actions or your failures? And cried out: save me?

Like Paul and Silas… Have you ever been in a position of power? Have you used your power and position for your own advantage, to get your own way, made someone feel indebted to you? Or have you like Paul and Silas chosen the way of Jesus?

What is God saying to you today?

PRAYER

Lord Jesus…. Lord Jesus, today we ask with the Jailer ‘what must I do to be saved?’ Show us where we are clinging on to our own lives so that you might help us to make you lord of everything… our hearts and desires… our possessions and our careers… our families and our friendships… our time and our homes. Jesus we believe… help our unbelief… amen.

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.