“At about midnight… there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened.”
He ran. His scabbard flapped awkwardly on his hip. He tripped, but caught himself on his hands. An old piece of glass stuck hard into his palm. He pushed himself upward and kept running. The ground shook again, and a beam fell hard on his helmet, knocking him to the ground.
He slept… and then awoke. The moonlight made rays through the crumbled hallway. His ears were ringing. At first he couldn’t move, so he laid there a moment, for some reason examining the cobwebs moving in the breeze. It took awhile, but he got to his knees, his palm stinging as he pressed it into the dirt floor.
The door of the cell next to him was empty, its door bent and hanging loosely on its hinges. He stared for a moment, wondering how long he’d been asleep. He imagined the prisoners tiptoeing quietly past him. This was horrible. He’d worked for Rome 19 years, and next year he’d finish his service. He hadn’t been happy–not happy with guarding a prison, not happy with being sent to Philippi, not happy with much of anything lately.
He drew his sword, placing its tip at the bottom of his sternum and angling it upward. It glinted in the moonlight and began to draw drops of blood. He let out a rasping yell that echoed off the cold walls, but was interrupted:
“Do not harm yourself! For we are all here.”
It was the short man. He’d been singing earlier–some Hebrew song. The short man’s hand was on the prisoner who’d been in the empty cell. Behind him, peeking out of the cells, were all the others. Earlier in the evening, the short man had spoken about salvation–salvation from evil. Salvation from destroying and being destroyed. He had been destroying things and people all of his life, and if the prisoners had left, the very Rome that he’d spent all his energy on would have turned on him for his failure. But the prisoners had stayed. The prisoners who could have had real salvation had stayed in this dark place where they had no freedom and no possessions. It was absurd behavior.
But he was curious, because his dissatisfaction weighed on him every evening he stood here, doing nothing more than remaining awake guarding prisoners, who usually didn’t bother to provide songs as entertainment. He needed salvation, although he wasn’t sure from what. He looked into the short man’s eyes.
“Sirs… what must I do to be saved?”
The short man glanced down for a moment, and then met the soldier’s eyes again:
“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”