‘What must I do to be saved?’ It had had not been the best of days.
My days could be eventful. On some days, the prisoners could be abrupt or violent, but that was all in a day’s work – I am a Jailer. Lock them up, keep watch, feed if necessary, do your shift – that would keep the bosses happy. After all there was not that much too it. Provided the prisoners were kept behind bars, then I enjoy the favour of the Roman authorities. I help to maintain order by keeping the criminals off the street.
On this day, two new prisoners were added to my watch. ‘Christians’ they were called – I have heard of them, notorious for causing disruptions in the synagogues and market places. The magistrate had ordered these two men, called Paul and Silas, to be incarcerated – it must have been for a serious crime because the instructions stated that they were put in the inner high security cell and be shackled by the feet. Maybe they had a history of breaking out, so putting their feet in stocks would ensure they couldn’t do a runner.
These two prisoners were strange. Everyone could see, even the other prisoners. They sang hymns (who does that?) and then seemed quite content to do a lot of praying (don’t know who they thought could help them now) – there was an air of joy yet security about them. Each to their own, I say.
And then it happened, around midnight, as if from nowhere we got hit by this awesome earthquake – oh the damage. The prison wasn’t built of the best of materials. The walls cracked, the floors buckled, the torches blew out, and the prison cell doors were dislodged from their hinges – all of them! It was chaos.
This was bad news – I have one key performance indicator – keep the prisoners locked up! If I can’t do that one job, then I pay for it with my life. Yes, I know it is a bit harsh, but that is the deal – the last thing I expected was an earthquake!
It is all a bit hazy now, much happened so quickly.
When I realised that the prison was open, I knew I had a horrible choice to make. The Romans were not known for being too lenient, so the excuse ‘it was an earthquake that set the prisoners free’ would sound pretty lame. Take my life now so that I don’t have to face the music then. And then out of the rubble, through the dust, despite the darkness, I heard them – those prisoners! ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’
I called for the lights, I had forgotten about the shackles, of course they were there, I had them locked by the feet – and here before me I saw the strangest thing. Not only had the earthquake knocked the doors from their hinges, it has somehow loosened everybody’s chains – what kind of earthquake does that?!
The prisoners were all free, but they were there!
Those prisoners all standing before me were a great gift. If true, if indeed all were all there then my life is saved. But if I was a prisoner and my shackles suddenly dropped off and the cell doors suddenly swung open, then I would take it as an invitation to hot foot it out of there – but not these men.
It was at that point that I realised my salvation was not of my own doing, it was on offer at the hands of those standing before me. ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ I blurted out. I will never ever forget the answer! ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your whole household’.
Inspired by Acts 16:16-40
For more in this Series:
What must I do to be saved? (Part 1 of 4)
What must I do to be saved? (Part 2 of 4)
What must I do to be saved? (Part 3 of 4)
What must I do to be saved? (Part 4 of 4)