Was it a surprise that the magistrates should send the police and order the jailer to release Paul and Silas? Was the earthquake that shook the very foundations of the prison such a localised one that it did not affect the infrastructure around? Was the deliverance of the prisoners such a secret affair that only Paul, Silas and their jailer knew about it? Were there other prisoners in the same prison who could have escaped?
Many more questions could be asked, considering that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteousness” (Matthew 5:45). What is interesting is Paul’s response. I suppose that knowing when to pull rank is also something to be discerned from listening to God’s Spirit. Paul did pull rank there and then, insisting that they be given the rights and respect due to a Roman citizen! If the earthquake didn’t scare them, then Paul’s pronouncement surely would!
Indeed! They came and apologized to them and then asked them to leave the city. It’s like the swine farmers and people wanting Jesus to leave the region of Gerasenes (or Gadarenes) after he had delivered the man from whom demons departed and went into the swine. (Mark 5) When the status quo is shaken, things will not continue as usual, and it becomes expedient for the ground shakers to go back where they came from.
Paul was going to leave, but not quietly.
Do we know when to make a fuss and when to just disappear into oblivion? Obviously, either position has its place, but it seems that knowing when to fuss is a big question especially in situations where our rights could take precedence over justice issues involving others. Although we are instructed by Paul to be angry and sin not (Ephesians 4:26), anger is not often valued even of righteous; and so one might just be timid when the Spirit’s call is to speak up and out, to challenge injustice, to be prophetic.
Lord God, grant us a discerning spirit to know when to fight back, when to be our instruments of change; and when to count our losses, sit and learn in silence. Amen.