Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Whole Lot of Shaking

Barnabas and Paul had a hearty disagreement concerning Peter’s helper Mark. Paul thought Mark was unreliable because he took off for home during an earlier mission. Their argument became so intense that Paul cut off his relationship with Barnabas and continued his ministry with the reliable Silas and a half-Greek youngster named Timothy. Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia beckoning for them to come help.

So, they went to a major city there, Philippi, and began spreading the gospel. Their first stop was at a gathering of women, at least one of whom, Lydia, was a believer in God and was seeking a deeper understanding. Paul was good at giving deeper understandings, having received his own in one fell swoop when the blinding light of Jesus knocked him to the ground and turned him 180 degrees from killing Christians to becoming one. Lydia, a businesswoman who dealt in purple cloth, was converted to the faith and baptized there in Philippi and a church was established in her home when she invited the team to lodge there.

When Paul and Silas left Lydia’s abode and entered the city preaching the Gospel, a fortune-teller followed them around day after day, inappropriately shouting that Paul and Silas were men of God, proclaiming the truth, trying thereby to garner favor for herself, posing as a member of their entourage. Paul put up with her officious fawning for awhile, but finally turned and rebuked the motivating spirit in Jesus’ name and she instantly lost all her demonic power. This event cost her handlers a lot of money as they were making a pretty penny through her dark abilities. So, in retribution, they turned Paul and Silas over to the authorities, accusing them of stirring up trouble in the streets. The magistrates had them beaten and imprisoned in the darkest, dankest, most secure section of the jail.

Undaunted, the pair prayed and sang praises all evening and at about midnight an earthquake shook the facility, causing chains to fall away and prison doors to spring open. Paul saw the terrified jailer about to fall on his sword and said, “Hey, we are all here, don’t harm yourself.” At that, the jailer cried out, “What do I have to do to be saved?” (Aside from the great miracle he had witnessed, why would he ask such a question unless he had been listening to their prayers and praises?) Paul, always ready to account for his joy, explained the Gospel in a nutshell on the spot: “Believe in Jesus and you and your household will be saved.” The jailer took the men of God to his home, washed their wounds, got baptized (probably in the very water they were being washed in), received a fuller understanding of the Lord and fed them as much of a feast as his astonished family could muster at that hour.

When the authorities found out about the jail miracle and that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were understandably nervous and urged them to leave Philippi right away. Did they leave immediately? Nope, they went nonchalantly to encourage the Christians at Lydia’s house for awhile.

By the way, it may have been that jailer beckoning for help in Paul’s vision that took them to Philippi. If you want a fuller account of these events, Chapter 16 of Acts recounts them a lot better than I ever could.

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