Monday, June 18, 2012

"What must I do to be saved?"

The story goes that after Paul and Silas disrupted the business of fortune-telling exploiters in Philippi that they were beaten and jailed. The jailer, when he got the order, put them in the inner cell and put their feet in stocks.

It must have been quite a day or maybe the fact that it was midnight. But something contributed to the jailer falling asleep. Maybe he'd too much of their singing. Nonetheless, he was in charge and duty bound to the prisoners. But his eyelids closed, and he was out, only to be awoken by the shaking of a mighty earthquake. It was such a shock that the prisoners were no longer bound, neither by their cell nor their stocks. And as one would imagine, the jailer thought the prisoners had escaped. He drew his sword without reservation in order to kill himself until he heard the words, "Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!" Prisons were not used for rehabilitation but containment until sentencing (i.e punishment). So, it would have been a big deal for a prisoner to escape. More research would need to be done, but is it possible that the reason the jailer would have killed himself was to spare himself torture and possibly him being tortured to death? Maybe he thought if he went ahead and ended his life quickly with the sword he would not have to endure Roman punishment for "sleeping on the job." Could it be that he thought he would punished in place of the escaped prisoners? Punished to death?

I think the jailer realized he had just lost everything; his job, his prisoners and consequently his family and ultimately his life. He asked for lights and rushed in trembling before Paul and Silas after hearing their words. He wanted to see for himself if they were alive. For if they were, he would still have a chance at being alive.

Paul answers his question with the words we know well, "Believe on (in) the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household." But I am not totally sure Paul answered the jailer's question.

We think and have so for some time that the jailer was inquiring about salvation from the eternal punishment of his sins, when he asked, "What must I do to be saved?" But was he? I think the jailer was asking these men (maybe he saw them as gods as in Acts 14:11-14) how he could escape the punishment of Roman bosses. It was a natural question arising from the current situation. But Paul flipped the question and answered it by telling him how we all can escape the punishment for our wrong-doing, our falling short of the glory of God.

The jailer fell asleep and should have been killed. He wanted to know from these men who didn't run how to escape punishment. Paul told him how to escape punishment, but not from the Roman authorities. We are all spiritually sleeping, having fallen down on the job, deserving severe punishment from God. But God says, "Wait a minute, I've sent my Son to you, put your trust in him and you will escape the punishment due to you." It is cause for singing.