And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
There could be no better demonstration for the jailer that night than the power of God shaking a prison, loosing the chains, and setting free a prisoner, for that is the work Jesus does in each of us when He saves us from our sins. The chains of sin are heavy, and they hold us bound and captive in the darkest of prisons. But when Jesus enters our lives, works with His power upon our hearts, the chains fall off, the doors are open, and the bright light of new life shines upon us. What gracious freedom we are granted when Jesus shakes the foundation of our prison and sets us free.
The keeper of the prison was not himself a prisoner, but he was still in jail, held there not by chains, but by duty. But Jesus has the power to overcome whatever is holding us in a dark and hopeless place. Since we can’t earn His love or forgiveness, we need simply to come as we are and accept His grace and mercy. We don’t need to be bound by a sense of duty, for God’s grace is a free gift. We don’t need to earn salvation by doing good because Jesus paid our penalty for us.
Sometimes even after we are saved we enter the prison cell and lock the door and wrap the chains around us. How foolish it is to go back to captivity after we’ve been pardoned and released. Let’s not allow guilt to drag us down. Let’s not fall victim to the heavy burden of sin in our lives. Jesus is ever by our sides to help us through whatever struggle comes our way. We don’t have to succumb to Satan’s influence any longer. Our advocate walks with us and equips us to fend him off.
The doors of the prison are open wide. Every chain, rope and tie that once bound our hands has been cut. We have truly been set free. Let’s refuse to go back to that darkness that was once our dwelling place. Let’s live with an appreciation for that freedom in our hearts and gratefully serve the one who released us from the bondage of sin. We are not held captive any longer. We can live and love and serve unhindered. But it is our choice whether to remain bound to sin or to accept God’s pardon and go forth into that new life He offers us.