Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-- you and your household." 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God-- he and his whole family.
The jailer had heard of Paul. Pretty much everyone in Philippi had by now. They had heard how Paul and his friend, Silas, had come into town several days earlier. Not finding a synagogue to meet in, they met with some women who were gathered at the river flowing through Philippi. A prominent woman named Lydia was converted to Paul’s strange message about a foreign god – a god named “Jesus.”
Philippi was a Roman colony and was used to all kinds of foreigners and foreign gods. But this “Jesus” was a god no one in town had ever heard of before. The local magistrates were wary of the activities of Paul and Silas, but they let them continue preaching in the city.
That all changed that morning! There was a young slave girl who worked in the marketplace telling people’s fortunes. She was a very odd girl. She had a great ability for fortune-telling, but she had wild eyes and hair – like a feral animal.
But that all ended that morning when Paul met the girl in the marketplace and said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of her!” She had been possessed by a demon! That was where her great fortune-telling powers came from! The demon was expelled simply by uttering the name of this foreign god!
That got Paul and Silas in big trouble. The girl’s owners had made a lot of money through her. Now their business was gone. They brought Paul and Silas to the magistrates. They had enough. The magistrates had Paul and Silas flogged. That’s when the jailer took over. He dragged them past all the other prisoners into the inner jail cell and put their feet in stocks.
Right away the jailer realized there was something different about these two prisoners. Instead of spitting on him, they were praying. Instead of cursing at him, they were singing. Praying and singing to this god “Jesus.” And they were having an effect on the other prisoners, too. Everybody in the prison was listening intently.
This went on for several hours. They were still going strong at midnight. That’s when the jailer’s world was shaken to its very core.
An earthquake shook the entire city! The jailer had been through several smaller quakes before. But this was one was so violent that it shook the very foundations of the prison. It was also a very “precise” quake. It unlocked the cell doors, as well as the stocks and chains of all the prisoners.
The earthquake had knocked all the torches off the prison walls. It was pitch black. By the time he and the other guards got some torches lit, he was sure all the prisoners had escaped. That meant he was a dead man. When the magistrates found out he had let the prisoners escape, they would torture him … and then kill him. He would spare himself the agony and spare them the trouble. He pulled out his sword and was ready to commit suicide.
Then he heard it … a voice from the darkness … a voice from the inner cell. “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” It was Paul!
The jailer immediately called for more torches to be lit. He was shocked as he made his way to the inner cell. All the prisoner doors were off their hinges. Every stock and chain had been busted loose. Yet every prisoner was sitting calmly in their jail cells. The jailer’s world was shaken again! He was about to kill himself, leaving his wife a widow and his children as orphans. But not a single prisoner had escaped.
When the jailer reached the inner cell, he saw Paul and Silas. He fell down before them and begged, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul replied, “You don’t have to do anything. Jesus has already done it all for you.” There was that name again – “Jesus.” “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”
The jailer had to hear more! He told the other guards to get busy locking the prisoners up. He was going to deal personally with Paul and Silas. He took them next door to his home. Everybody in the house was awake after the earthquake. His wife cleaned the wounds of Paul and Silas. His mother-in-law brought them some food. His children gathered around to hear their dad’s words about what had happened in the jail. But then everyone listened even more intently to Paul and Silas. They told amazing, wonderful, unbelievable stories about this “Jesus.”
The jailer’s world was shaken one more time! He believed what they said! That morning he had believed in Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto. Now he believed in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was about to kill himself but now he knew there was a life after death. And he wasn’t the only one who believed – his wife, mother-in-law and young children all believed, too!
Paul then taught them about baptism. He took the water that had been used to wash their wounds and he poured it over each one of his family’s heads. Then he heard the most amazing words. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
And his world was shaken one more time!
Perhaps you have had your world shaken this last year. The ground on which you were standing suddenly shook, cracked, and went out from under you. Your mom died suddenly. You heard the doctor say the word, “cancer.” You were laid off at work. You spent a lot of time in the hospital. Your dad doesn’t remember you anymore. Your marriage fell apart. Your bills threaten to overwhelm you.
You tried to find a safe place to hide. But this world is constantly feeling tremors. You could find no where that was safe.
You never contemplated suicide. But the stress and pressures and fears did drive you into a serious depression. Nothing you did could relieve all the quaking and turmoil.
You tried to make a deal with God to make Him happier with you. You promised Him you would do better if He would only stop the shaking for a while. You cried out, “What must I do to be saved?”
In all of this you sound an awful lot like the Philippian jailer. There is no safe place apart from Jesus. There is no way to relieve fears and remove depressions apart from Jesus. There is nothing you can do to make a deal with God and be saved. There is only Jesus.
There are plenty of things that can cause our world to shake. We can allow these things to have drastic and dramatic negative effects on our lives.
Only God can shake our world and bring about positives in our lives. Only God can shake our world by giving us His Son, Jesus.
The name of Jesus may have been new to the ears of the Philippian jailer, but by God’s grace, we are very familiar with Him. From little on, we have heard that we don’t have to do anything to be saved. Jesus has done it all for us.
Jesus is the One who preached and drove out demons in His own name. Because of this, He was thrown into a dark cell. He was imprisoned by the Jewish guards. He was flogged by the Roman soldiers. He was nailed to the cross in between other prisoners. It was the middle of the day but it looked like the middle of the night. And all His enemies gathered around the foot of the cross didn’t see Him spitting on any of them. He didn’t curse them. Instead He prayed for them. He prayed that His Father would forgive them.
Then He breathed His last. He died. Then the ground shook!
Three days later the ground shook again. This time because He was alive.
He is the Lord Jesus. He died so you might die to sin. He lives so that you might live with Him. He took your sins upon Himself so you might be forgiven. He endured His Father’s wrath so you might receive His Father’s inheritance. Simply believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.
Believe in the Lord Jesus and your life – your former life as an unbeliever – is shaken to pieces. Now you feel safe … even when everything seems to be falling apart around you – safe in Jesus’ arms. Now you feel joy … even when depression lurks around the next corner – joy in Jesus’ salvation. Now you feel loved … even when things seem to keep going wrong – loved in Jesus’ deliverance. He has done it all. You don’t have to do anything. This is all yours – simply by believing in the Lord Jesus.
Today, if you were to ask the Philippian jailer if he feels safe, joyful, and loved, I think he would consider that a foolish question. After all, he never felt more alive than the night the earth shook and he believed and was baptized.
I read recently that there are 5 things women most want in a relationship with a man. I don’t know if every woman would come up with the exact same five, but I think they’d all be pretty close. The five things are: time, appreciation, understanding, kindness, and fun. If a woman can find a man who will give her those five things, it doesn’t matter what else is going on in the world around them, they will feel like it’s going to be OK, which is exactly what God promised you at your baptism.
At your baptism, God promised to spend not just time, but every minute of eternity with you. He declared that He appreciates you; you are the unique crown of His creation that He created you to be. He acknowledged that He fully understands everything about you. Everything, which is why He was kind enough to wash you so thoroughly of your sins. He invites you to a life now and a life eternal where “fun” doesn’t even begin to describe what will happen.
The water trickled over the heads of the jailer, his wife, and his children. Their world was shaken. They had gone from unbelief to faith. From false gods to the one true God. From death to life. From citizens of a Roman colony to citizens of heaven.
Think back to your baptism. As the water tricked over your head, your world shook. You may not have realized it, but it happened. You were dead in sin. Then through water and the Word, you were alive in Christ. You were a child of Satan. Then through water and the Word, you were a child of God. You were an enemy of God by nature. Then through water and the Word, you were given the inheritance of God’s eternal kingdom. You were on the road to hell. Then through water and the Word, you were going to heaven.
When your world starts shaking, remember the account of the Philippian jailer. His world was shaking, too. He almost died that night. And he did – he died to sin. He was raised to a new life and faith in the Lord Jesus through baptism. When your world starts shaking, remember your baptism. That was when the Lord Jesus put His name on you. He made you His own. He gave you faith. He washed away your sins. He brought you from death to life. He saved you.
He shook your world. Amen.