Verse: Acts 16:16-40
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
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 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. When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”
There’s actually more, but I had to cut it off somewhere… But I feel that the whole arc of this section is important. As a younger version of myself, I found this first section odd. A spirit? She was speaking the truth about Paul and the other apostles, and it’s doesn’t sound like she was saying anything wrong. But still, it irritated Paul enough that he silenced her by casting out the spirit. But I was getting preoccupied I think. Missing the point. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the whole situation was orchestrated to get Paul and Silas thrown into prison. I used to think that God rescued Paul and Silas from the trouble into which they had gotten themselves. But maybe the trouble was the whole point. It placed them in a position to bring a Roman jailer and his family to Christ.
Again, I could be wrong about this story , but I think that just being able to look at a serious misfortune, including pain, humiliation, and loss of personal freedom, and considering that God has a larger agenda, can be very difficult. But Paul and Silas were praying and singing. They had peace in the middle of pain and suffering and injustice. They turned to the God they knew and were witness to a miracle. At this point, maybe they were used to it. But this is our foundation. Our roots. This is who our God is, and this is the church that we are part of today.
Jesus, you are worthy of all or praise, and all of our trust. Thank you for all that you have done for us. Would you help us to look to you in our pain, in our distress, in our humiliations. Help us to look for what you are doing, to hear the invitation to be a part of this story. We want to be ready to respond to you! Amen.
Author: Emily Costa