This Week's Story

Paul and Silas were innocent convicts in a prison hole in Philippi.

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A Quiet Observer, part two

I’m supposed to be a quiet observer on this trip to Philippi with Paul and Silas. It’s not working. There are too many things happening that I do not understand. Today I almost lost my “cool.” A wild woman near me suddenly became calm when Paul looked at her and ordered,

“I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” What kind of supernatural power was that?

Later my fists were tightening, and I was furious as I watched businessmen manipulate a crowd and city officials. The result was Paul and Silas, though innocent, were stripped and harshly beaten with rods in front of a crowd. They were put into stocks in the inner hole of Philippi’s prison.

I knew they were in great pain. But, they started praying out loud and singing to God.The other prisoners and I could easily hear them. I thought, “These men aren’t crazy. How can they pray and sing?”

Now, what is happening? The floor under me is shaking. I’m te-te--terrified! I’ve never been in an earthquake. The walls are jerking. I hear the prison’s concrete foundation cracking. Shrieks of terror

surround me. Doors are crashing; chains are clanging. The jailer is coming toward us. Ohhh, he’s turning his sword towards himself.

Instantly Paul shouts, “Do not kill yourself. No prisoners have escaped!”

The jailer’s face is contorted. If his prisoners escape, he will receive their penalties, which will probably mean torture. His body is trembling as he walks towards Paul and Silas. When he takes them out of their cells. I sense he trusts them. He asks, “What do I need to do to be saved?”

They must know what he’s talking about, because they immediately tell him, “Believe in Jesus Christ and you and your family will be saved.”

The jailer is taking them to his own family quarters. Paul and Silas are filthy. The jailer begins washing away the blood and dirt that is ground into their gashes. Soon all the family and servants gather. As Paul and Silas speak intently about Jesus, I see growing belief and joy in the faces of everyone. Hours pass and it is nearly morning when Paul and Silas return to their cells.

Police arrive with a surprising message from the city officials. “Paul and Silas, you are free to leave. Peace be with you.”

I am astonished and almost laugh as I hear Paul’s strong reply. “We were beaten without a trial and jailed! We are Roman citizens! We will not be leaving secretly! The city officials can come and personally release us.”

Someone should have done their investigating better and learned the citizenship of Paul and Silas. What a dangerous violation! Philippi is an important city to the Romans of 67 A.D.! Many Roman soldiers are here on active duty and many who are retired live here. These city officials have broken three Roman laws. No Roman citizen is to be beaten. No Roman citizen is to be jailed without a trial. And, no Roman citizen is to be placed in stocks.

The officials quickly come to personally release Paul and Silas. They are almost pathetically humble. “Please, sirs, leave Philippi soon. We beg your forgiveness for not knowing you were citizens of Rome.”

Paul and Silas will leave soon, but watching Paul, I suspect he’ll be back. He cares about the people here.

This is Barbara Steiner with a Bible story from Acts 16, in which I was the silent observer.

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