the unexpected acts

Today's first reading is one of a variety of "jail break" stories found in the Acts of the Apostles. I've written about my fascination with these stories before, where the Apostles are put in jail for preaching the Gospel but broken out of jail by an angel of the Lord. Today's reading is a little different, because while there is an earthquake, there's no actual angel present. Plus there's another difference (see if you can figure out what I'm talking about) ...
About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying
and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened,
there was suddenly such a severe earthquake
that the foundations of the jail shook;
all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose.
When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open,
he drew his sword and was about to kill himself,
thinking that the prisoners had escaped.
But Paul shouted out in a loud voice,
“Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.”
He asked for a light and rushed in and,
trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas.
Then he brought them out and said,
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.”
So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house.
He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds;
then he and all his family were baptized at once.
He brought them up into his house and provided a meal
and with his household rejoiced at having come to faith in God. (Acts 16).
So there they are, in jail. They're praying and singing hymns. There's an earthquake. The doors of the jail fly open, but not only do Paul & Silas not escape, the rest of the prisoners stay too. ("Do no harm to yourself: we are all here."). No escape = not really a jail break story.

I've been thinking about this reading all day. Wondering what Paul & Silas - and especially the other prisoners - were thinking as the doors were wide open and they stayed put. It doesn't say how quickly the jailor appeared, although most likely the earthquake woke him up so there may not have been much chance to escape. But then again, the story implies that there was. So what were they thinking?? Maybe some of them figured they'd get caught eventually, so why bother escaping. I suspect that Paul & Silas, with the help of the Holy Spirit or perhaps an undisclosed angel, had an inkling that their unexpected act (or non-act) of staying put would lead to the conversion of the jailor and his household. And I suspect that at least some of the prisoners were fascinated by the prayerful presence of Paul & Silas and stayed to see what would happen.

In any case, as I said it had me thinking most of the day about our unexpected acts and the impact they can have. Not reacting in the expected way - such as turning the other cheek instead of lashing out - can sometimes be more powerful in the end. I was reminded of Ghandi's campaign of nonviolent action. Unexpected acts can be powerfully disarming.

Those are my random thoughts for the day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. It's good!