Acts 16:25-34, New International Reader's Version
Paul and Silas Are Thrown into Prison
25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying. They were also singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. It shook the prison from top to bottom. All at once the prison doors flew open. Everyone’s chains came loose. 27The jailer woke up. He saw that the prison doors were open. He pulled out his sword and was going to kill himself. He thought the prisoners had escaped. 28“Don’t harm yourself!” Paul shouted. “We are all here!”
29The jailer called out for some lights. He rushed in, shaking with fear. He fell down in front of Paul and Silas. 30Then he brought them out. He asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus. Then you and everyone living in your house will be saved.” 32They spoke the word of the Lord to him. They also spoke to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night, the jailer took Paul and Silas and washed their wounds. Right away he and everyone who lived with him were baptized. 34The jailer brought them into his house. He set a meal in front of them. He and everyone who lived with him were filled with joy. They had become believers in God.
Construction paper chain. (Have one individual link for each child to offer at the end of message.)
In today’s passage, we learn about power of prayer. Paul and Silas were in prison. Do you remember a few weeks ago, the story of Paul on the Damascus Road? (Allow children to answer.) Around midnight, they began to pray. They began to sing songs to God. All the other prisoners were listening to them. Then suddenly, a tremendous earthquake shook the prison so hard that the doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. (Pause, look at the construction paper chain links, shake them, and drop them to the floor. If you are able, remove a link from this chain to give to each individual child to take a link home. You will need to have the ability to unfasten and refasten the links without tearing the construction paper.)
The earthquake woke the jailer. His bed bumped and rolled as the whole room was moving. The noise of wood cracking and chains rattling roared throughout the room.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, the shaking stopped. The jailer was certain that all the prisoners, including Paul and Silas, had escaped. He listened but heard nothing. That was a problem. The prisoners must have certainly escaped. They had been put in prison for telling others about Jesus. The silence meant one thing: they must have escaped. If the prisoners had escaped, the jailer would have been killed for not doing his job.
The jailer looked and saw the door of the prison flung wide open. He heard a voice tell him that the prisoners were still all there. He couldn’t believe it! Everywhere he looked, he saw prisoners who could have escaped but stayed in their cells.
Paul and Silas hadn’t escaped either. They didn’t deserve to be in prison, but they didn’t try to run away. The jailer saw how strong and faithful they were and fell on his knees in front of them. He knew they must have an important message. “Tell me about Jesus,” he said. “What should I do to be saved?” he asked. That night, the jailer and his whole family believed in Jesus.
As soon as the jailer realized what had happened, he asked Paul and Silas to help him know Jesus. He didn’t wait another minute. He didn’t waste time. He immediately decided to follow Jesus. He knew that Paul and Silas were showing and telling others about Jesus, and he believed.
This week, I invite you to take your “chain” and shake it and drop it to the ground, and when people ask, tell them the story of Paul and Silas and how the jailer became a follower of Jesus.
Chain Breaker, remove the chains from us and set us free, free to follow Jesus, free to show and tell the world how much you love each one of us. Amen.