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May 2013

Freedom for the Jailer

7th Sunday of Easter

From “Scolding the Snakes”

Scripture Reference: Acts 16:16-34 ffjail

Preparation: Find or draw a large picture of a jailer standing outside a jail cell with a prisoner inside behind bars.

Can anyone tell me which of these two persons is in prison and which one is free? (Hold up picture so children and congregation can see it. Let child point out the prisoner and the jailer.) That was pretty easy to tell, wasn’t it? Do you think the one who is outside the jail guarding the prisoner is always the one who is free? Let me tell you a true story about prisoners and a jailer. It’s a story about two men who told many people about Jesus; their names were Paul and Silas.

This story is found in the New Testament book called Acts. Paul and Silas were thrown in prison by the people in a city whose ruler did not want them to preach about God. They were put in the inner dungeon, and their feet were clamped into irons so they couldn’t even move. Their jailer was ordered to guard them carefully so they could not escape.

Now, it seems like the jailer is free and Paul and Silas are not free, doesn’t it? But really, the opposite is true. Paul and Silas may have been in jail, but they didn’t feel like prisoners. They were happy because they believed in Jesus and were free from the jail of sin. They were so happy about the freedom Jesus brings that they were singing at the top of their lungs, praising God. The jailer, on the other hand, didn’t know Jesus, so he was still trapped in the prison of sin and bad thoughts.

Suddenly a great earthquake shook the jail from top to bottom! All the prison doors flew open, and the chains dropped off every prisoner. The jailer thought that all the prisoners had escaped, and he was really scared. He knew he would be punished for letting them escape, so he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, but Paul shouted, “Stop! We’re all here!” The jailer ran to Paul and Silas and fell on his knees before them. These men seemed so happy, they sang hymns in prison; and they had been so kind to him—they hadn’t even run away. He wanted to know how he, too, could be so happy and so kind. The jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Paul and Silas told the jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” So that very night the jailer and his whole family accepted Jesus as their Savior and were baptized.

Now the jailer was free from the prison of sin—just as free as Paul and Silas! And now he, too, could be happy and kind to others.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank you for making us free from the power of sin.

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