Do you remember what happened when the Apostle Paul was visiting the Philippians? He was apprehended, brutally hit with rods, thrown in a dark jail, and had his feet tightened in shackles. Even in this state, around midnight, while the guards were sleeping, he was chanting and praising God (Acts 16:16-25). What courage! What patience! What long-suffering We are not impressed so much with the numerous miracles recorded in the Scriptures that he performed, as we are astounded with the patience he displayed during his sufferings: when he was whipped, when he was ridiculed, and when he was stoned. “And, having stoned Paul, they drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead,” we read in the Acts (Acts 14:19). Yet another time the following occurred: “And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely” (Acts 16:23).
How content, how satisfied, how honored must St. Paul have felt knowing that he was beaten and imprisoned on account of Christ! But pay close attention to the miracle that followed: “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.” (Acts 16:26). Do you see how these amazing bonds of St. Paul were able to loosen the bonds of others? “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.” (Acts 16:27). How did St. Paul react in this situation? He yelled loudly to the guard, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” (Acts 16:28).
Do you see the modesty and humility of the apostle? He did not say, “All these things took place because of me!” Rather, as a simple prisoner amongst the other captives he confirmed that, “We are all here.” If St. Paul would have remained silent, the guard would have committed suicide. How much compassion and tenderness did the Apostle Paul show! He preferred to remain in bondage instead of allowing another person to lose his life. At that very moment, those very same bonds revealed their awesome power once more, for they made the prison officer kneel down before the prisoner. “Fearfully,” state the Acts, “he fell to the feet of Paul” (Acts 16:29). He who was free was suddenly found before the feet of him who was in bondage. He who had tied the apostle was now begging the apostle to loosen him from the bonds of ignorance and fear. “What must I do to be saved?” he asked (Acts 16:30).
Tell us, O guard: didn’t you tie him up? Didn’t you throw him in jail? Didn’t you secure his feet tightly in shackles? Why are you now trembling? Why are you panicking? Why are you crying? Why did you take out your sword to end your life? “I didn’t know,” he would respond to us, if he was present here, “I did not know that the servants of Christ, even when they are bound, have such great power!” What are you saying, O man? Christ’s apostle received authority from the Lord to open the heavens, and you think he would be incapable of opening the doors of the prison? He frees them who have been bound by the devil, and you believe a single chain would be capable of keeping him tied up? He frees souls who are bound by sin, and you imagine that he wouldn’t be able to free his own body? It was for this very reason that he was tied beforehand, prior to loosening the bonds of the prisoners: so you can learn that the servants of Christ have much greater power—even when they are bound—than them who are free.