Summary: How could you possibly witness to someone who’s hurt you? Someone who has gone out of their way to make you miserable? Paul and Silas did it. Can you do it too?
OPEN: In the 1870s, in the Old West, a town called Truckee, California decided to build a jail. This wasn’t just any old jail - this was wonder to behold. The walls were 32 inches thick at the lower level and there were no windows unless one counted the small vents for each cell. The ceilings were plate steel, insulated with dirt, and lined with narrow gauge railroad tracks. And all the doors were riveted steel, and weighed about 200 pounds each.
Nineteen citizens donated $25 each toward construction of the jail and when it was finally built the price-tag was $1,235.
That was a lot of money for that day… and a lot of jail.
But in the Old West, most communities couldn’t afford that nice a jail. Many, in fact got by with a shack that was padlocked, or sometimes even a hole in the ground that was secured with bars on top.
Years ago, one of my friends told me about a trip he took out west where he visited a site where they talked about jails in the Old West (from which I got some of my information for today). While he was there, he was told the tale of a extremely imposing jail that no one escaped from. However, while the walls were imposing… that’s all they were. They were built on the cheap and as a result, if any convict had been determined to escape they could have. They just never tried.
Had someone decided to escape, those walls could not have held them.
APPLY: In the same way, the Bible seems to imply that the Apostles rarely met a jail that could hold them. That’s not to say that they escaped every prison that ever held them. It’s just that if God didn’t want them in jail… no jail that could hold them.
For example, in Acts 12 we’re told King Herod had Peter thrown into prison, but the “night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him.
Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.”
My point is this: No prison. No jail. No guard or soldier could ever have held any of the Apostles of Christ.
So (if that’s true) why is it that in THIS story in Acts 16, Paul and Silas have this opportunity to escape… but they don’t? The cell doors were opened; the shackles had fallen from their feet. All they had to do to gain their freedom was run for it.
Why didn’t they?
Well, they didn’t because God wanted them there.
Paul and Silas were THERE… in Philippi… in that jail… on that night… because God wanted them there. God didn’t want them leaving that jail because God wanted them to talk to someone. He wanted them to witness to this jailer and his family.