Today, I saw a bizarre fundraiser going on downtown involving people being “arrested” and put in a makeshift jail cell on the sidewalk. Another gentleman stood in the middle of the road with a sign for Brighter Christmas — a local charity — waving down people to “bail out” the prisoners.
I looked it up much later and realized these guys are in there until about 3:00. They’re stuck until they do their time, regardless of how much money we donate.
Noble charity, tacky gimmick.
But there’s truth in this: in order for someone to come out of jail, a payment of some kind must be made.
I drove by somewhat hastily — mostly because the light was green where the man with the sign stood — but I managed to count about seven people in the jail cell, waiting to get out. A strange irony: they were smiling, waving at the passing cars to be freed. Were they enjoying this? Well, in context, of course they were.
But there are a lot more people in jail, even in prison, that are just smiling and waving. In fact, there are billions around the world, waving at passer-byers in their cells, content with their current location. This is because they don’t even know they’re captives.
Before you label me as delusional, or starting to think I’m just making an exaggerated statement about the American prison system and the many amenities they offer the nation’s criminals, understand this: we are captives until we finally realize there is freedom.
Jesus spent a lot of time getting His disciples in the know. A lot of revelation occurs in Matthew 17, which should help you understand further how so many people can be presumably locked up with no bail and not even know it.
1) They don’t see Jesus. The true nature of Jesus is revealed to the disciples because they spent enough time hanging out with Him. Poor church experiences, liars and hypocrites posing as Christians, and distorted and skewed versions of the truth can deter us from seeing what Jesus actually looks like.
2) They don’t hear Jesus. It’s not as if He’s not perceptible — all of creation screams His existence. But we’re just not listening. After Peter makes another goofy remark in response to witnessing the transfiguration of Christ, God the Father decides to make an audible announcement and commands Peter to listen to His Son. I would have peed in my robe right there. Are you paying attention, or are you too busy to shut up?
3) This world is wicked. It’s obvious, if you think for four seconds, about how ridiculous it is that millionaires are barking back and forth about a “fiscal cliff” when millions of people around the world starve. This isn’t new stuff: Jesus calls His society “faithless and perverse”, and He has great disdain for the religious leaders and the “temple tax” (though He still pays it out of obedience). We’re imprisoned by a relentlessly evil world. No real mystery there.
4) They don’t know freedom is already here. Perhaps they perceive Jesus, and they know the world has its hangups, but they refuse to acknowledge His willingness to part with His life for our salvation. The man intentionally marched to His deathbed, and subsequently got up from it, unlocking every cell for eternity. They’re free — it’s now a matter of acknowledgment.
Now it’s your turn. Do you know you’re in prison? Look around; then check the door. You’ll be surprised (and overjoyed!) that the door is actually unlocked.