Posts Tagged ‘jailer’

Acts 16:33
At that hour of the night the jailer took them [Paul and Silas] and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.

When the jailer accepted the word of God that Paul and Silas shared with him, his eyes were opened and with those open eyes came compassion. Paul and Silas were no longer just prisoners but injured men who needed attending. Before that, the jailer had been complacent.

I wonder how often I have missed human need and suffering because of a callous heart. I drive the same streets every day. I walk the neighborhoods. I go to the same grocery store and eat at the same restaurants. Am I looking and not seeing?

Martin Buber spoke eloquently of man’s ability to look at “the other” without seeing in his book, I and Thou. Am I looking at other as “object” … as an “it,” or as a person … a true “thou.”

William Shakespeare captured this idea slightly differently (but effectively) in the Merchant of Venice through one of the speeches of Shylock: “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?” [Act III, sc 1] Replace the word Jew with “the poor” and you get the idea.

The jailer could not do much. He couldn’t free Paul and Silas, he couldn’t change their circumstances, but he could give a small comfort: he could wash their wounds.

When I see poor and wretched souls, I become numb with the enormity of their deprivation. What can I possibly do? Perhaps it’s only the small act that needs doing in the moment…. washing wounds by listening, touching, asking, engaging, feeding, sharing. Perhaps I should stop worrying about what I cannot do and simply do what I can do.

I have heard it said that we can never “out give” the poor. Their need will always be greater that our ability to meet it. This sentiment reverberates in Jesus’s own words: “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want…” [Mark 14:7a]

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Acts 16:30
He [the jailer] then brought them [Paul & Silas] out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Paul, Silas, and the other prisoners could have escaped when the “earthquake” came, their prison doors opened, and their chains came loose. The jailer was about to commit suicide when Paul called out to stop him. Why was the jailer about to fall on his sword? He knew, like the guards who were killed when Peter miraculously escaped, that he would be flogged and probably killed. He feared for his own life.

I believe the jailer was asking about being saved from his fate at the hands of the magistrates. He did not expect the answer to be “faith in Christ Jesus.”

I used to dislike this question, “Are you saved?” I’d heard too many people answer, “saved from what?” And then the typical “Christian” response was “saved from eternal damnation… hell, fire & brimstone.” But really, if a person doesn’t believe or know about the Christ, is he or she going to be concerned about hell?

No, I believe a person who is truly ready to be “saved” will know what that word means in his/her own life. There will be no need for explanation. In fact, like the jailer, the person may be looking for a solution. It could be a need for salvation from physical illness or anticipated physical harm, or a crushing emotional situation, or a dire mistake that might place the person in jail, or a relationship that has gone bad, or futility or despair or fear… any of these will bring a person to the brink of struggle and need.

There is no point throwing a life preserver to someone who’s not in the water. Sometimes a person needs to be drowning before he/she will ask for help. Sometimes a person knows he/she can’t swim and asks for help right away. Another person, who knows how to swim, will try to swim to shore first, but then grow very tired and weak before asking for help. Does it matter when the moment comes?

I imagine that Jesus knew and recognized those “saving” moments in the people he touched. As followers of Christ, we must learn to recognize and respond to the signals. It is part of the helping profession to offer assistance but no one usually accepts help until he/she is ready.

In the meantime, what is my role? Walk and love authentically among the people. Be available and ready to help. Tell my story. Be in the moment. Go to the drowning places. There’s no point walking around with a life preserver if we never go near the water.

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