We sometimes think that we have it bad trying to tell others the good news of Jesus. Maybe we have glorified what happened in the first century, thinking it was so easy – just open your mouth, tell them about Jesus, and presto! 3000 want to become Christians! If we understand the scriptures – and are honest with ourselves – we realise it wasn’t quite that easy. It isn’t about how easy it is. It is all about telling others no matter what happens to us.
Paul and Silas were in the Roman colony of Philippi (Acts 16). They had found some Jewish women who met together on Saturday for prayer and they told them about Jesus, resulting in at least some of these women becoming Christians. They continued to teach in this city and in the process helped cure a slave girl from a “spirit of divination” (v.16-18). Unfortunately the owners of the girl were quite annoyed, as they lost a steady source of income. They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the town authorities, accusing them of teaching things that were illegal.
There does not seem to have been any type of proper trial at all. The assumption was that they were not Romans and therefore had no rights. So the town magistrates stripped their clothes off, beat them severely with rods, and threw them into the inner cell in the prison, fastening their feet in stocks. Roman stocks were designed to inflict the most pain that they possibly could.
What would we be thinking if this happened to us? We’ve been doing what Jesus wants us to do – telling others about him and the salvation he brings. But what has it brought us? Public humiliation, a public beating, and now we are in prison in severe pain. What would we have been doing that night?
Notice what Paul and Silas did: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the rest of the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25 NET). No shouting at how unfair it was. No cursing God for allowing this to happen. No complaints because of their pain. They prayed and sang hymns – and this got the attention of the other prisoners. After all, this is not what they were used to hearing come from the inner cell of the prison.
Most of us are familiar with what happened next: the earthquake, the jailor rushing in and preparing to commit suicide, Paul stopping him, the jailor washing their wounds and after hearing Paul and Silas speak the word of the Lord being baptised, along with his household. Such a dreadful way to be treated, but it resulted in more becoming Christians!
The next morning when the authorities wanted to get Paul out of town quickly he refused to leave the prison. They couldn’t treat Roman citizens this way! This frightened the magistrates and they ended up receiving an apology, a nice escort out of the prison and a request (not order) to leave their city. Paul and Silas first visited and encouraged the Christians.
What’s the worst that could happen to us if we tell someone the good news of Jesus? Be called names? Abuse shouted at us? Our “friends” might not be so friendly? Compare that to what the Christians in the book of Acts went through. Do we really have it so bad? What’s our excuse?
Readings for next week
29 September – Acts 21
30 September – Acts 22
1 October – Acts 23
2 October – Acts 24
3 October – Acts 25