This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Acts of the Apostles 16.25-40
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.26Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.27When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped.28But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’29The jailer* called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.30Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’31They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’32They spoke the word of the Lord* to him and to all who were in his house.33At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.34He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
35 When morning came, the magistrates sent the police, saying, ‘Let those men go.’36And the jailer reported the message to Paul, saying, ‘The magistrates sent word to let you go; therefore come out now and go in peace.’37But Paul replied, ‘They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not! Let them come and take us out themselves.’38The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens;39so they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city.40After leaving the prison they went to Lydia’s home; and when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters* there, they departed.
Luke was working from sketchy sources which are nor easy at all points to square with the information we can glean from Paul’s letters. Nevertheless his history endeavours to show the ministry of Paul as the key element in the second half of the story of Jesus Messiah. Only Paul, according to Luke real grasped the essence of Jesus’ life as a divinely shared life open to all humanity through trust in Jesus. Obviously that conviction meant crossing all sorts of boundaries and taboos in the ancient world. It was a dangerous ministry, as Judaism itself had been declared a permitted religion in the Empire but any new religion would have been illegal. In this story Luke wants to show:
1. Paul and Silas are treated unjustly. They are entirely peaceful vicgtims of local jealousy and maladministration.
2. They remain serene, singing hymns in the prison.
3. The earthquake is seen as divine intervention.
4. Paul and Silas by remaining in prison, save the life of the jailor.
5. This opens his heart to their gospel: he and his family are converted. Enemies become friends.
6. Paul stands on his civil rights as a Roman citizen: he demands an apology from the city officials. He works by the law, while they have transgressed it.
Luke in this way characterises Christianity as a faith which changes the world by changing people. The compassion, justice and peace of Jesus Messiah is re-enacted in his apostles, and persuades people to change their lives by trusting the love of God.