One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God. (Acts 16:16-34, NRSV)
This is an interesting section of scripture because there is so much there.
But as I read it this time I was struck with visions of the movie Braveheart. Because it is all about the last line of William Wallace.
You see the movie Braveheart is about William Wallace who marries a young maiden and keeps it a secret because the king has reinstated “an old custom. Grant them prima noctes. First night, when any common girl inhabiting their lands is married, our nobles shall have sexual rights to her on the night of her wedding. If we can’t get them out, we breed them out. That should fetch just the kind of lords we want to Scotland, taxes or no taxes.” Longshanks said. King Edward I of England about Scotland where Wallace was. So Wallace married in secret but it was discovered and the nobleman of England in Wallace’s area came to “take” his right. Which set off Wallace and a battle ensued. Longshanks on his deathbed was waiting as Wallace was tortured at the end of the movie after his capture. And as Wallace was tortured Langshanks waited for Wallace to cry for mercy. But Wallace when he mustered the strength didn’t say mercy, he cried “Freedom!” Because he knew at that point he was truly free from Longshanks and everything that had held him back.
In our reading, we see several people who are captive. The easy to identify captives are Paul and Silas, put in prison for casting out a demon and causing a disturbance in the city. But they are not the only captives. The slave girl is captive to those who own her and the demon. The jailer is captive to society and those who hold power over him. But in the removal of the demon, Paul and Silas freed the slave girl from that which holds her back, because those who owned her didn’t want her free from the demon because of what it did for them. She was held captive by the demon because she was held captive by her owners. And the jailer thought he was free, only in as much, he did what those who had power over him told him or wanted him to. Becuase when he thought that the prisoners were gone he was ready to kill himself rather than face what was to come.
Truly Paul and Silas were never captive because they were in shackles and chains and still were singing praises to God. The man who was having followers of Jesus arrested and killed is now chained, but singing praise to Jesus! Now that is true freedom.
So how does our freedom in Christ change everything?