Rev. Trevor Johnston
Sermon Series: Chapter Two, a Future with Hope
Week 7: The Jailed Jailor
- Jesus is the God of chapter two – the God of the fresh start and the new beginning. We all have places in our lives, where we need Jesus to help us turn the page from an old chapter to a new one. As you consider the start of summer, what hopes do you have for any fresh starts in the coming months?
- Read Acts 16:16-34: Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
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 everyone’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 household 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 household.
What questions or comments come to your mind as you read this?
- Paul and Silas had been unjustly beaten and thrown into prison. Their feet were put in stocks as a way to torture them and make them more uncomfortable. They don’t know what will come next or whether they will ever get out of this alive. And yet, they are singing praises to God. Why would they sing praises to God in this situation?
- What would you have done in that same situation?
5. The jailer was so desperate that he planned to take his own life. He felt trapped by his circumstances as if there were no way out. He felt totally hopeless. So you could say that, actually, the jailer was in more of a “prison” than Paul and Silas were. When have you seen someone living in a sort of prison, though they were not physically a real prisoner? Describe their situation and what they were captive to.
God turns utter despair into joy
6. Read Psalm 30:11-12: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.”
Note the drastic change that the jailer experienced from despair to joy (see Acts 16:34). When have you had an experience like that?
7. Read Isaiah 61:1-3: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”
Jesus quoted this passage as his life mission at the start of his public ministry. How have you seen Jesus do these things in the lives of people you know?
8. The jailer realized that he wanted whatever Paul and Silas had. Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and describe what Paul’s source of joy and praise was. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Fix your eyes to fill your heart
9. Read Hebrews 12:1-2, and describe how fixing your eyes of Jesus can steady you in life’s difficult circumstances. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
You have to make the choice to fix your eyes
- It’s not when life is going great that we experience how fixing our eyes on Jesus makes a difference. It’s when life is hard. Nicole White, a dear Community of Hope partner who recently went to be with Jesus, lived this out as she was dying of cancer and was a great testimony to how we can have joy in the midst of painful difficult circumstances, when we fix our eyes on Jesus. Tell about someone you know personally who chose to fix their eyes on Jesus as they went through a very difficult circumstance.