In Acts 16:16-24, Paul and Silas are walking through Philippi when a slave-girl starts following them and shouting that they are “slaves of the Most High God.” Paul orders “a spirit of divination” to leave her body, but without that spirit, she can no longer make money fortune-telling for her owners. In anger, the girl’s owners accuse Paul and Silas of advocating an unlawful religion. Paul and Silas are arrested, beaten, and thrown in prison.
Does that sound like anyone else’s story?
Jesus’ story, perhaps?
They are all innocents who are falsely accused, beaten, and imprisoned.
But while Paul and Silas were imprisoned by shackles and stone walls, Jesus was imprisoned by death.
Paul and Silas are about as deep in prison as you can possibly get.
End of story.
Jesus was dead, and he’s been dead for days.
End of story.
Or is it? We know that Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb. We know that three days after his crucifixion, Jesus broke the bonds of death that were holding him captive and was resurrected. Not even the most powerful captivity known to humankind could hold the Son of God imprisoned!
So how does Paul and Silas’ story end? In the middle of the night, Paul and Silas are “at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. … Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose” (Acts 16:25-26).
At some point or another in our lives, we are all captives. It could be illness, injury, addiction, pain, pride, a busy schedule, or any number of things that imprisons us.
But that imprisoned life is not the life that God intended for us.
We were created for a life of freedom and loving relationship with God. In order to ensure that that life would be available to us in spite of our sins, God sent God’s Son to earth to conquer and thereby release us from the ultimate captivity: death.
What a gift!
How could we do anything but praise and thank God for God’s everlasting love and mercy?
When we remain in relationship with God, praying and praising as Paul and Silas did, God can do amazing things in our lives.
Stop for a moment and think about the things in our life that are holding you captive. Imagine them putting you in prison and forming chains around your feet, keeping you from moving on in your life.
Now do what Paul and Silas did: “Put your entire trust in the [Lord] Jesus. Then you’ll live as you were meant to live – and everyone in your house included!” (Acts 16:31).
Give that faith the opportunity to cause an earthquake in your life to shake loose your chains and open your prison doors.
Let your actions reflect the love and mercy that has been given to you by God.