When we left Paul and Silas in Philippi, they had been dragged before the magistrates in the market, falsely accused of crimes, stripped, beaten repeatedly with rods, thrown into prison with their feet in stocks. What irony. The gospel of peace has stirred up a hornet’s nest in Philippi. The freeing of a slave girl from demons has lead the truly free into suffering and chains.
Imagine how curious the other prisoners were about the new arrivals in their midst. A prisoner’s view of the world becomes microscopic. The prison itself seems to encompass the whole world. Paul and Silas have been delivered into this tiny world – the free placed in prison chains in order to free others from eternal chains.
Put yourself in the other prisoners’ place for a minute. A pair of battered and bloodied magician tricksters have landed in the inner prison. Rumour surrounds their arrival. “These are the men who silenced the soothsayer slave-girl with but a command. What kind of men are these? They’ve already been beaten before their arrival here. There is so much concern about their magic they are taken straight to the inner prison, foot stocks shackling them.” You can be sure the prisoners are straining to see and hear everything surrounding the spectacle lived out before them.
“Who are you? Where have you come from? What have you done?”
They did not have to wait long to find out what these two “criminals” were about. Around midnight, after gathering strength sapped by their trial and beatings, Paul and Silas pray and sing songs of praise to God. All the prisoners are listening to them. What kind of God is this, whose suffering servants give no pause in their praises?
“What is this? The ground is shaking? First they silenced the slave-girl with words, and now their songs start an earthquake?!?! I can’t believe what I’m seeing. The prison doors wide open. My shackles, lying on the floor next to me. … so strange. My head… all this shaking. I must be dreaming.”
to be continued…