Chained… And Yet Unhindered
“[Paul was] proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” – Acts 28:16-31
Today’s reading encompasses the last words in the book of Acts. We read that Paul was under house arrest for spreading the good news of Jesus. He probably spent some of that time in chains (after all, he had already escaped from prison once, so his captors were probably particularly careful with him this time around).
And yet, we are told, with the very last words of Acts, Paul was preaching and teaching “without hindrance.” I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that house arrest and chains could be described as a hindrance. To be sure, they didn’t put duct tape over his mouth, but still, how can it be said that he was “without hindrance?”
Paul is unhindered because he is not the primary actor in this story—the Holy Spirit is. Prison chains may hinder Paul, but the Holy Spirit is without hindrance. In spite of the chains, the good news is still shared, it continues to spread, and lives are changed. Caesar could no more lock up the power of the Holy Spirit than he could catch the wind in a jar.
Each one of us is limited—by our circumstances, by our limited gifts, by character flaws, or even by chains—and yet the Holy Spirit still can be at work in and through us. In fact, the Holy Spirit often enters the scene with the phrase “and yet.” In the divine drama, “and yet” is the Spirit’s cue to take center stage.
Holy Spirit, I am limited in so many ways… and yet I am trying to believe that you can be at work through me. Help me to be open to you and to trust you. Amen.
Martin B. Copenhaver is the President of Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, Massachusetts. His most recent book is Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered.