I want you to close your eyes – Oh wait, this is a blog – OK then, eyes open…
Let me start again.
I want you to picture in your minds eye a man chained at the wrists and ankles to a stone wall in a dark and dirty dungeon. The shackles are cutting into his flesh. Covered in filth he and his clothes are tattered and worn. He has been here for years. He is slumped in a heap on the floor against the wall, resigned to his condition.
Now see Jesus walk into that filthy prison cell. He is dressed in beautifully tailored garments, spotless, and He is clean, except for the dust on His feet from the dingy chamber’s floor. It’s as though the dirt can’t reach Him. In His nail scarred hand He holds a key. As He approaches this shell of a man, He quietly asks him to stand.
At first this man does not even register that Jesus is talking to him. He has been alone so long that it never crossed his mind that anyone would come to him, let alone this majestic and beautiful man.
Jesus again asks him to stand, and as he struggles to his feet, Jesus reaches out His hand to help the prisoner rise. As he stand to his feet, he notices for the first time the markings across Jesus’ forehead, left there from that mocking crown He once wore.
Once on his feet, Jesus continues to hold his hand and looks into his eyes. With a smile at the edges of His mouth Jesus asks, “Would you like to be free?”
This hostage can hardly believe his ears. His simple longing was for contact with life, but free? He had not dared to think of freedom.
“Yes, yes please, yes Sir, Oh Thank you, Yes” he sputters.
At this point Jesus gently applied the key to each manacle, carefully, so as not to tear the man’s bruised and raw flesh any further, and set him free. Then Jesus said
“Come with me.”
Jesus led him out of that ugly cave and into a place of beauty.
There was a warm bath drawn, and clothes laid out for him, clothes that appeared to be cut from the same material as the Master’s.
Jesus helped him out of his rags and into the bath, and, as if he were a child, Jesus bathed Him until he was squeaky clean. Next He helped this newly free man (let’s call him Chris) into the garments of righteousness Jesus had tailor made just for him. They were a perfect fit.
Shortly after his freedom encounter he started to feel a longing to be with other folks who knew this freedom.
There was a church not far from his home, so on Sunday morning he donned his new clothes and headed down the street.
Upon arriving he was greeted and welcomed by a friendly couple. They seemed to be beaming, and made him feel like he was in the right place. They were dressed in similar clothing, yet each was fitted and equipped differently. There were a number of children buzzing around the couple, and as they shook hands, Chris noticed the scars on the young man’s wrists, a happy reminder to him of his new freedom. They quickly made him feel at home and helped Chris find his way around the facility.
As he left their company, he bumped into another gent. Also dressed in robes clearly made by the Master. He seemed a bit downcast. He did not have that same exuberance Chris had observed in the couple closer to the door.
Chris, encouraged by his encounter with the young parents eagerly offered his hand in greeting, but this gent held his hands behind his back and was not nearly as forthcoming in his welcome and greeting. As he introduced himself he somewhat awkwardly retracted his hand and slid it into his pocket.
Then he noticed something strange. This new acquaintance was in deed wearing a Jesus-made garment, but under it and around the edges he could see evidence that he had his filthy old clothes on underneath.
As he entered the sanctuary he saw dozens of folks already inside. Some were chatting quietly. Here and there he noticed a few more gregarious folks laughing and talking in what seemed like no regard for this beautiful place.
After his last encounter in the lobby, he began to look around and see if others might still have their old clothes on. Here and there he got a glimpse of a tatter or a rag. He even noticed a few folks who were carrying their chains.
The strange thing is the chains were not locked. These folks had somehow latched the manacles back onto their wrists, even though it was apparent that they were not locked.
Chris took his seat and a minute or two later the gent he met in the lobby came shuffling down the aisle. It was then that Chris noticed the cuffs on his ankles. They looked just like the ones Jesus had freed Chris from just days before.
Again, as with the others around him, the man’s anklets were not locked, just jury-rigged to stay on. As he passed, Chris got a look at his hands and sure enough, he was wearing handcuffs.
The service started and they sang songs of praise to their great Savior and Deliverer, Jesus. They sang songs of freedom, but most were forward looking to a freedom in the future.
After a couple songs a man slid in next to Chris.
[How is this new character dressed? Hmmm.
Shall we dress him in a red suit and put horns and a pitchfork in his hands? I think not. Perhaps all in black with a big black 10-gallon hat? No, that won’t do either. Let’s dress him in church clothes. Let’s put him in khakis and a polo shirt, or perhaps a suit and tie (this I will leave to your imagination since I am not sure what Church clothes look like to you.)]
So this new parishioner sidled up to Chris and began, in a whisper, to chat with Chris as the service continued.
“Are you new here?” he asked
“It’s my firsts time. Are you a member?” Chris responded.
“Oh, I have been sitting in the pews since the first time this Church met here” he said.
Chris thought it was strange that this guy was neither wearing the Jesus made clothing nor was he wearing rags, and he showed no signs of either chains or scars. How did he fit in?
Then this odd gent spoke up again.
“So, young man, where are your chains?”
“Jesus removed them, what a relief that was. I felt like they had been with me my whole life, and finally I am completely free from those shackles. I owe Jesus so much!”
“Are you trying to tell me that you’re no longer chained to that old nature? Didn’t I see you looking with lust at that woman on your way in this morning? Didn’t I see a glint of envy in your eye when you saw the deacon’s car in the lot? Wasn’t that comment you just made to me about freedom as good as a lie?”
This put Chris a little off kilter and he was not sure how to respond. Who was his new accuser, and how did he see so aptly the struggles Chris had been having that very morning.
Then he remembers what Jesus had done.
“Jesus unlocked my chains, He set me free, He washed me, He gave me these clothes and told me to wear them.”
“So then, you are not denying these feelings? You are saying that you are still a sinner, still bound and just pretending to be free?”
“NO” said Chris, raising his voice slightly. Then more quietly, but still with conviction and force, “no, I am not 'still bound.' I saw the scars on Jesus. He paid for my sin, and took them away. I am still tempted, this is true. Even in the short time since my release, I have stumbled a time or two. But I am free. I refuse to go back and get those chains. I refuse to carry around the baggage and bondage of my old slavery.”
He continued “I have a new heart, that though it is tempted, it has a deep desire to please my Lord and Master. There are even things that I never knew offended Him that this new heart tells me about myself.”
“I am sorry,” Chris finished, “but I will not listen to any more of your lies.”
Chris got up and moved to a different row, and raised up his scared by beautifully empty wrists and hand and began to sing love songs to his Great Deliverer.