Month 3:11, Week 2:3 (Shleshi/Bikkurim), Year 5935:067 AM|
Omer Count Day 3/50
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 12 June 2011
What Must I Do?
The Jailer and the Judahites
Most reading this passage (including myself up to about a week ago when I was studying this passage one night before retiring) assume that the jailer, in asking what he needed to "do to be saved", was asking the same kind of question as the Judahites, whose hearts were pierced, when they heard Peter preaching the Gospel to them and said: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37-38, NKJV). The result for both the jailer and these Israelite listeners was the same but the question they asked had, I suggest, very different meanings and intents behind them.
"At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to Elohim (God), and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, 'Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.' Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' So they said, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.' Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in Elohim (God) with all his household" (Acts 16:25-34, NKJV).
Every living soul is brought to salvation through a unique set of circumstances, motives and perceived needs. The Judahites, bred in Talmudic Judaism, suddenly realised their spiritual darkness and felt lost inside as far as their standing with Elohim (God) was concerned. The jailer, by contrast, was afraid of losing his physical life. Why? Because if a prisoner escaped on a jailer's watch, that jailer was, in Roman times, executed. And though Paul and Silas had been praying and singing, the jailer had been asleep when the earthquake woke him and he saw the prison house ripped open and the broken chains. Nevertheless, having no doubt heard them sing, pray and encourage each other earlier, he knew that somehow the earthquake had come on behalf of these men of Elohim (God). He knew, then, to whom he should turn for the kind of power that might deliver him from execution. And though relieved to discover Paul's assurance that no prisoner had fled, and being persuaded not to dispatch himself with the sword, he must have wondered at the consequences for himself and his wrecked prison.
No doubt, having been exposed to Paul, and seeing the physical power demonstrated, he also thought about the welfare of his soul once he realised that he would not face the gibbet after all. So his question about salvation no doubt was a combination of the immediate threat of his employment circumstances as well as concern about the eternal welfare of his soul. I do not doubt that the two are closely connected because of something Peter would later say:
And the threat of imminent death, is this not often the catalyst for repentance? And if not death, many do not yield until some kind of physical suffering compells them to start looking at the more important condition of the inner man.
"Whoever has suffered physically is finished with sin with the result that he lives the rest of his earthly life no longer controlled by human desires, but by Elohim's (God's) will" (1 Pet.4:1-2, JNT).
It really doesn't matter how one is brought to the end of ones self and to repentance and salvation so long as it happens. Yahweh knows what each man and woman needs to get him or her there. Sometimes only a nudge is needed, sometimes more drastic, life-threatening action, dependng on our individual choices and consequent resistances.
The jailer was saved and his whole household. That is what matters and what we rejoice in!