Perhaps it was like any other night – a jail full of captives under the watchful eye of a faithful guard in the evening’s waning hours.
It was midnight and the guard had fallen asleep to the sounds of prayers and hymns, acclamations made by Paul and Silas despite their seemingly hopeless circumstances. The two had been dragged into the marketplace, mocked and beaten, carried away to prison, and placed in the innermost cells where their feet were fastened into stocks. With no other recourse, praise seemed appropriate.
Their voices reverberated off the prison walls (the passage tells us other prisoners were listening) and, at one point as they prayed and sang, the earth began to shake. The rumble of the ground breaking, the very foundations of the jail trembling. The doors of the prison cells flung wide, the prisoners’ bonds were now loosened.
The guard, awakened by the chaos and instantly panicky, rose to find the prison doors now open. Supposing the prisoners had already escaped and resolving to avoid the shame of it all, he reaches for his sword and goes to turn it on himself. For this guard, saving face would mean losing his life. Or so he thought.