Yesterday, the jailer was looking for answers. Though it’s been twenty-four hours (or more) for us since we started looking at this story, for him it happened in minutes. (Please read Being Saved for the first part of the story.)
When the jailer was asking Paul and Silas what he needed to do in order to be saved, I don’t think he was wondering about some abstract belief system. That’s what we often do when talking about God: “Do you want to be saved?” “I didn’t know I needed it.”
The jailer knew exactly what he was talking about. He was talking about his life. His skin. The throat that he had been seconds from slitting ten minutes before. He had been afraid that everything was falling apart. Everything. He knew he had no control of where his life was going. Regardless of why the prisoners escaped, even though the earthquake was not his fault, he was still responsible.
And these two guys, Paul and Silas, chained in the most secure part of the jail, attacked by a crowd, beaten by the authorities, accused of undermining the culture, known for driving out a spirit, were suddenly the ones in control of the situation. They were the ones with the answers.
So the jailer asked them how to go ahead, how to preserve his life, how to be saved. Had they run, he would have died. And there was no reason for them to stay.
Their answer seems peculiar. “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Leaping from suicide to intellectual assent is troubling for us. But for Paul and Silas, this wasn’t about intellectual assent.
After all, they had been in chains. And while talking to God, the building shook. The chains fell off.
They knew saved.