These four calls would stick in his mind forever 10-15, 10-34, 10-95 and an almost 10-98. These four calls went out the day he almost died. When he told the story to other officers, it was a hard scene to imagine. Most wouldn’t have believed him, but by the look in his eye, no one dared call him a liar. For those who didn’t know the call signs, his story sounded like this, a civil disturbance, a riot, subjects in custody and almost a prison escape. It was his most exciting day on the job, but the best part never went over the police bands.
We don’t know his name, but we can all call him our brother. In many ways, he was lost and hopeless heading down a dead-end road, but that all changed after he met Paul and Silas. They stopped him from having the worst day of his life, by giving him the news, “You Are Safe from death through Jesus.”
As we pick up with Paul and Silas in Acts 16, they are in the middle of Paul’s second missionary journey in the city of Philippi. Paul and Silas have run into trouble with the citizens of the city because they healed a demon possessed girl. The girl belonged to a man that used her to make money by telling people their fortunes. When the demon left the girl, she was left without the ability to make her master money. Outraged, the girl’s master stirred up the town against Paul and Silas, claiming they were “advocating unlawful customs for Roman citizens to accept or practice.”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
Unfortunately, the local authorities believed the claims about Paul and Silas. The stir the incident caused became so great that Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten and sent to the local jail to sit in the innermost cell. The situation Paul and Silas were in wasn’t good, but their spirits hadn’t been broken. Suffering for healing people and sharing the gospel was becoming a common theme for Paul. Unaffected by their dismal circumstances, Paul and Silas spent their time in jail praying and singing hymns, while the other prisoners listening to them.
It was getting late, and about midnight, they were all startled by a violent earthquake. God sent the earthquake to open all the doors of the prison and free all the prisoners from their chains. The earthquake also woke up the jailer.
27, 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.
The jailer knew escaped prisoners could mean the death penalty for him. He was having a bad night, but when someone’s first thought is to take their life after something goes wrong at work, there is a deeper problem.
The jailer’s priorities in life were wrong. His job had become too important to him, but it did not happen as you might expect. I mean that he did not wake up every day and think…this job that I have as a jailer in the town of Philippi is the greatest honor any person could ever have. The money and perks I receive from this job truly make it my heart’s desire. The importance of my work here shall be immortalized throughout history. No, the jailer had not thought these thoughts. But, when taking his life rather than face the consequences for allowing a prison escape on his watch, it was clear that something bad had been working behind the scenes in his life.
The same hidden evil that caused the jailor to pull his sword out to use on himself, is the same hidden evil that affects us. It is the thought that something in our life is worth more than life itself and it takes many forms. For example, everyone wants to do their best in school, but worrying to the point of getting sick because of a “D” on one test or planning to cheat on the next test to get the “A” reveals school has become too important.
Another example, each one of us has relationships in our lives that we value for their love, support and companionship, but when our best friend or daughter or husband doesn’t talk to us anymore it drives us to gossip, give up our innocence, push back the curfew, binge watch a hit show even though it doesn’t have a shred of moral value, even do something illegal to fix the relationship. Selling ourselves out to these extremes means we value that relationship more than our life.
Finally, when the majority of our lives and all our education has been poured into a career we enjoy and have been successful in begins to consume the majority of our time pulling us away from family and church or when the pressure to perform better and make more sales causes stress and anxiety to grow in our lives to the point of affecting our sleep, blood pressure, weight and well-being, then our job has become more valuable than our lives.
At first glance, we may wonder why the jailor was so certain his life was over because he had failed at his job. We may ask this until we realize that the real hidden evil is the fact that we all have something in our lives that if lost could bring us to the point of feeling like our life is over. So, the question is, how can you go on with your life when a major part of your life fails you?
I’ll take the pressure off and answer for the jailor first. What could Paul have said to the jailor who was ready to die because he failed at his job?
28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” And the man stopped, called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Paul had saved the jailor from death and now he was going to give him life.
We also need to hear what Paul told the jailor that night. The jailor was so afraid that he would die for failing at his job that he was ready to take his own life. He did not live in a world of mercy, forgiveness and love, but Paul changed all that. The message Paul brought to Philippi and the message contained in the hymns and prayers he sang in the jail spoke of a way to be saved. The jailor ran to Paul after the miraculous earthquake to hear more from the man who assured him all the prisoners were still there and he didn’t need to die.
Paul told him the way to be saved did not depend on doing, but believing. Paul said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Paul’s words assured the man that worrying about losing prisoners, failing at his job or even facing the death penalty did not exclude him from being saved. His life could not be taken away from him because Jesus had saved his life. Paul and Silas explained what Jesus had done to save all people from sin and death to the jailor and his whole family. When they heard that they had been saved by God they believed, were baptized, they took care of Paul and Silas’ wounds and enjoyed a meal together giving thanks to God.
Now back to us and how we can deal with major losses that we face in life. We can deal with them because of our baptism and that faith that we have in Jesus. Through our baptism, we died. In other words, when you and I were baptized, the spiritually dead existence that we lived in died. The existence without faith, that only had hope for the wealth and pleasures of this world, which ruled our hearts and separated us from God and meant that when we die, we will continue to be separated from God in hell was put to death by our baptism. Baptism drowned that hopeless and spiritually dead unbeliever and we emerged from the waters a new creation, a believer, a person who loves God, who has a relationship with Jesus, is considered a member of heaven and lives a different way in this world.
Thus, we are now like the jailor, Paul and Silas, in that we no longer lose all hope when things go wrong in our lives. The jailor who once didn’t care at all about Paul and Silas, who was content with them sitting in his prison beaten and bleeding, had now welcomed Paul and Silas into his home, listened to them, welcomed them as fellow believers, sang and ate a meal with them. Paul and Silas who were falsely accused, beaten and put in jail had not harbored hatred toward their accusers or captors nor were they sitting in silence or depressed because of their situation. Instead, they sang hymns, they had not lost faith, but prayed to God and when they were released by the miraculous earthquake, they did not let the jailor kill himself, but instead they loved him by saving his life, then shared the gospel with him to give him eternal life. You and I have that same changed heart that no longer bases its joy or contentment or willingness to love on our earthly situation, but on our heavenly status.
Because we are baptized believers, we remain alive when things in our lives go wrong. We remain alive meaning that we remain spiritually aware and in control of the situation. So, when we get the a “D” on one test and it hurts, we don’t have to let worry or plans to cheat overtake out thoughts, instead we can pray to God for better focus in the future and thank him that our whole life, his love or our home in heaven is not in jeopardy over one test.
When relationships we once held dear go through a rough patch or are even lost, we ask God to be near us and we remember that he never leaves us, but always watches over us and will provide for us. We also give him thanks for the other relationships we still have with family, friends, our church and especially our Savior.
Finally, if we have a really bad day at work, even one worse than a 10-15, 10-34, 10-95 and an almost 10-98. We won’t be so overwhelmed that death is our only option. Instead, we will remember that Jesus already died for us. He already took the punishment for all our guilt, failures, hardships and loss. He even experienced being given up by his Father when he died on the cross. He did all of that to give you and I new life. Life that has hope and joy no matter what goes well or fails us. Life because Jesus rose from the dead, went to prepare heaven for us and waits to come back to bring us there to live with him forever. The good news today and even on your worst day remains true, the good news that “You Are Safe from death through Jesus.” Amen.