The following is told from the point of view of the Philippian Jailer, as described in Acts 16:16-39.
The first time I saw the apostle Paul, he was in pretty bad shape. I was in charge of the Roman prison in Philippi at the time, and the authorities dragged him in with his traveling companion, a man named Silas. They both had been severely beaten with rods, a traumatic experience. They were accused of insurrection, a trumped-up charge, as it turned out. The chief magistrates seemed especially determined that these two be securely guarded, so I threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. I am ashamed of the way I treated Paul and Silas that night. I wish I knew then what I know now.
I’ve heard many a prayer in this foreboding place, but these men were different – they were praying and singing praises to their God! Their obvious trust in Him certainly made a profound impression on all of us.
Then at about midnight, there was a massive earthquake that shook the very foundations of the prison. Natural forces might explain some prison doors becoming dislodged, but there was nothing natural about every door, shackle and stock unfastening! My life was over. Allowing these prisoners to escape on my watch would be judged a capital offence. At the time, a quick, fatal self-inflicted sword wound seemed much preferred to the slow painful execution methods employed by Roman authorities.
Just when I was prepared to thrust in the sword, I heard a voice coming from the inner prison and my life has never been the same since. Instead of escaping the injustice to which he had been subjected, Paul shouted out to me from the darkness, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” All of them? I couldn’t fathom what could have influenced a group of hardened criminals to remain in their cells when all restraints had been removed! I was touched. There was something truly extraordinary going on. These two men weren’t hardened criminals. They were servants of a God powerful enough to shake the earth and to offer me a chance for redemption in the process!
I called for lights and brought Paul and Silas out of their cell. I didn’t fully understand the concept of spiritual redemption, but I desperately needed the tranquil peace of mind they clearly derived from the God they worshiped. I needed salvation!
What a night! When I learned about the one true God, my guilt before Him and the redemptive sacrifice His Son made for me, I was overwhelmed. I helped Paul and Silas wash their wounds from their brutal beatings, but they assisted me in washing away every sin I had ever committed by baptizing me. To this day, the joy is indescribable. I know Luke, the beloved physician, has included an account of my conversion in his treatise to Theophilus that is being circulated and I’m glad. If my story helps lead someone else to the Savior who redeemed me, I couldn’t be happier!
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of the Murray Ledger & Times.