About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and 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 bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And 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 wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. Acts 16:25-34 ESV
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. I John 4:16-19 ESV
When two armies are at war, or if there is some other kind of violent conflict, if one side waves a white flag, everyone understands that this means surrender. A white flag means that the side that is waving it gives up and will admit to being the loser, or at least wants to stop fighting long enough to talk things over. White flags have been used since at least early in the Roman empire, and they’ve also been used for centuries in China. In China white is the color of death, and so waving a white flag might have meant that the losing side was admitting that they were in danger of dying if they didn’t stop fighting. A white flag is waved in fear and weakness, with the hope of mercy and help from the other side.
When Paul and Silas were in prison, they used the opportunity to continue to spread the good news about Jesus. At midnight they were praying and singing hymns together while the other prisoners listened to them, and suddenly there was an earthquake. The doors of the prison flew open and the bonds that held the prisoners in place all fell off. When the jailer saw and heard all this, he was terribly afraid. He had all the strength of the prison to hold the prisoners in their place, but something much more powerful than that had suddenly set everyone free. Under Roman law, if even one prisoner escaped while he was on duty, he would be put to death. So he took a sword to kill himself, but Paul called out, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” The jailer knew that he was beat. He didn’t wave a white flag, but shaking with fear he came and threw himself on his knees before Paul and Silas, asking what he had to do to be saved. Paul told him the good news, to believe in Jesus Christ. The jailer felt so happy that he washed the sore, bloody backs of Paul and Silas and brought them to his home and served them a meal. Then he and his whole household were baptized that very night. His fear had turned into the joy of knowing the love of Jesus.
We also rejoice in the love of Jesus. We were prisoners to sin and death, and we were full of fear. But Jesus came to defeat sin and everything evil by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead for us. Jesus has set us free from everything that could hurt us, and from the power of death and the devil that brought us so much fear. Jesus is much stronger than sin and evil, and we can trust him to take care of us. Instead of fear, we have love, and that gives us great joy.
Dear Jesus, thank you for rescuing us from sin and death to be your people forever. Amen.