You don’t have to have your doctorate in seismology to recognize that the “Ring of Fire” is getting very active lately.
From Los Angeles to New Zealand to South America, things are moving up and down and all around! As a matter of fact, just within the last few weeks an 8.2 magnitude quake rocked coastal Chile causing multiple deaths and the evacuation of over 900,000 due to a tsunami warning that followed.
The day after that big shaker, I read about a massive “woman hunt” that was underway. In the panic that ensued, 300 female inmates at the Iquique Prison saw their golden opportunity to escape, all thanks to panic, damage, landslides and wide-spread power outages. Several were immediately recaptured, but many are still at large.
As a Bible-reader, I remember another account in history where another prison was shaken by an earthquake and the inmate population had the very same inviting green light to escape – but interestingly, didn’t.
During the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey, he and his traveling partner, Silas, got into some hot water in a place called Philippi. You can read all about it in Acts 16 in your New Testament. Anyhow, they made some people very angry when they exposed and exorcised a demonic income source a couple of scoundrels enjoyed. Paul and Silas were turned in, severely beaten and thrown into prison. Hardly sounds fair for a couple of guys trying to be obedient to their faith, huh? But listen to what happened next.
At midnight Paul and Silas could be heard by the other inmates praying and singing – a sound you never heard in an ancient Roman provincial prison. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a violent earthquake shook the region, the city and the penitentiary, The prison walls ruptured and the opportunity to run for each prisoner was theirs to take effortlessly. The jailer on duty that fateful night immediately assumed that every prisoner had fled. Being the one held ultimately responsible, he knew that his life would be required for theirs. As he drew his sword to expedite the judgment that would most certainly befall him, he heard the voice of one of the newest prisoners, one perhaps he had personally flogged, yell from the darkness – “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
As a local pastor I have asked myself many times why those inmates didn’t run when they had a chance. Prisons back in antiquity were miserable places. Without any modern conveniences or advocacy, the life of an inmate in Philippi was dismal, helpless, hopeless, unsanitary and just plain wretched. Why didn’t these guys take advantage of an earthquake like those gals down in Chile recently? My best reasoning, they had heard the hope of Paul and Silas; something they were hungry to have in their lives, something perhaps they had never had, something real, something bigger and better to live for – perhaps even die for.
They personally experienced, in their darkness, a hope they had never heard – a hope that stood firm under the worst of conditions – a hope that was unshakable.
Next Sunday is Easter. It’s the day we as Christians recognize that Jesus Christ overcame a brutalizing and humiliating public death, and rose from the grave. And, in doing so, gave each member of the human family something we all desperately claw for and need – hope.
By overcoming death, His resurrection sends a few clear messages to us as Californians we can no longer ignore. First, that we no longer have to fear death. And second, that we can be completely forgiven.
God the Father’s resurrection of His Son was His proverbial rubber stamp approving that all that Jesus said was true and that everything Jesus did was enough!
Back to that horrified, yet suddenly hopeful, Philippian jailer. Aware of the scandalous grace that had been given to him, he humbly fell at the feet of Paul and Silas and asked them the question I pray you as the reader will ask – “What must I do to be saved?”
“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”
Friends, no matter what dismal and hopeless circumstance you find yourself imprisoned this Palm Sunday 2014, there is real hope available to you though the resurrected Christ who loves you and died for you – a hope that can sing and pray in pain, a hope that will stand firm when everything around you crumbles.
Where have you placed your hope?
Steve Kiefer is the lead pastor at the First Christian Church in Suisun City. He can be reached at www.1stchristianchurch.org.