friend Daniel at Daniel and the Lion’s Den ministry who sends me daily text messages
of encouragement: My goal in these
letters is to uplift by giving you something positive to meditate on and think
about, something that draws you closer to GOD.
I try to be led by the HOLY SPIRIT with prayer. My formula, to use a math metaphor, starts
with an idea or even a dream. I first divide
the problem or thought into smaller pieces and then address or find ways to
overcome them one by one. Then I multiply
all the possibilities I can think of. Next,
I subtract the negative thoughts.
Finally, I add together enthusiasm, the Bible, and my faith in order
to proclaim GOD’s truth. My desire is to
give and for you to attain hope, to help you have true joy and peace in life. E=mC2 (Enthusiasm = my Christ squared). It’s not meant to bore but to enlighten, not
to preach but to share what I’ve learned.
After all, “Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread”
– D. T. Niles.
My hope and prayer is that this letter finds you well. I pleased to say that I had the opportunity to meet with another one of my brothers who recently paroled. We spent a wonderful afternoon together catching up and renewing our friendship. It is amazing the work that our Lord Jesus Christ is accomplishing through his servants whether bound or free. It has been proven over and over that the Lord stays faithful to those who stay faithful to Him.
A Familiar Story
The death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ is a central tenet of the Christian faith. Everyone knows that the Easter story presents
an account of the events leading up to and following the darkest day in human
history and the brightest day in God’s history.
What follows is an analysis of those events from the prisoner’s
perspective. This is not intended to be
a theological discussion but rather a paraphrase using language from modern
criminal justice. Simply a way of
looking at the parallels that can be drawn between what Jesus went through and
what a convict goes through. Jesus was
said to be both fully God and fully human, that He experienced all aspects of
life, including temptation, yet never sinned.
Only by both living and dying could He fully experience the human condition. In an act of selfless love that fulfilled the
holy writ Jesus became the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins.
Beginning in Matthew 26:3-5
and John 11:57 the Prosecutor and the Grand Jury determine that a warrant for
Jesus’ arrest was merited because He was disturbing their peace and was a
threat to the establishment. An APB was issued
and a reward for information regarding the whereabouts of the suspect was posted. From Matthew 26:14-16 and Luke 22:1-5 Judas
Iscariot decides to become a snitch in order to claim the reward, since he
didn’t like the direction this Messiah’s kingdom was heading. As the treasurer for Jesus’s organization he liked
to take a little off the top for himself and all the talk of giving everything
to the poor and Jesus predicting his own death was bad for business (John 12:1-7).
According to Luke 22:3-6, the
authorities concerned about public relations and their ability to control the message
sought to arrest Jesus away from the public eye.
Judas knowing that Jesus would be with only his inner circle of disciples in a secluded location after dinner led an overwhelming force of armed officers to arrest Jesus. Matthew 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-50, Luke 22:47-52, and John 18:8-12 describe the scene as one of barely controlled chaos, with fear and confusion on all sides. Officers sent by the authorities behaving like a small mob of thugs, seeking to intimidate and overpower any resistance, wait for Judas to positively identify the suspect. Once identified, they move in to arrest Jesus. As they take him into custody the disciples flee into the night, running for their lives.
Jesus was taken to the
Sanhedrin for a preliminary hearing. Matthew
26:57-68, Mark14:53-65, and John 18:12,13,19-24 recount the hostile encounter
between Jesus and the High Priest who served as prosecutor. Witnesses are brought in, yet none could
agree on the facts in their testimony. In
the end the exasperated prosecutor seizing on one statement from 2 witnesses
confronts Jesus about his true nature and identity. Up until this point Jesus has remained silent
choosing to not say anything, but now breaks his silence to answer the prosecutor’s
final question. Jesus cannot deny who He
is. It causes a near riot as the Sanhedrin
serving as the Grand Jury erupts in a frenzy over Jesus statement. They pronounce him guilty of blasphemy and
call for the death penalty. There was no
defense attorney brought in to act as public defender for Jesus, no cross
examination of the witnesses, and no council to avoid self-incrimination.
Now Israel was subjugated
by the Roman Empire and as such the High Priest and the Sanhedrin could not
impose the death penalty themselves.
They had to take the death penalty case to the Roman governor for final
judgment and sentencing. Matthew
27:11-26, Mark 15:2-15, Luke 23: 2,3,18-25, and John 18:29-19:16 contain the
accounts of this hearing. Pilot, the governor
was a shrewd politician and could see the politically motivated nature of the
charges and did not find that the charges brought against Jesus merited the
death penalty. He tried to avoid making
a ruling in the case by initially determining that the prosecutor had brought
the case to the wrong court. Since Jesus
was from somewhere else, Pilot ruled that he should be tried in Herod’s court.
According to Luke 23:8-12
Herod was initially interested in hearing from Jesus, since he had heard of
Jesus reputation as a miracle worker.
But he quickly tired of listening to the prosecutor pressing his demands
for a death sentence while Jesus stood silently, refusing to answer any
questions. So, Herod and his officers mocked
Jesus by dressing him up as a king and then returned Jesus to Pilot’s court in
a classic perp walk.
Pilot now faced with a
dilemma tried to bargain with the crowd that had gathered to watch the court
spectacle. He offered the crowd, which
had been whipped up into a mob by the High Priest, the choice to either release
Jesus or Barabbas who had been convicted of murder and insurrection. The prosecutor and the crowd shout for
Barabbas’ release and for the death of Jesus.
Pilot concerned that the situation was rapidly getting out of control, acquiesces
to their demand. In a final theatrical gesture
Pilot washes his hands to signify that Jesus blood was not on his hands.
Now of course things
would never get this far out of hand in a modern American courtroom, but the
Roman Empire was a vastly different place, held together with brutal oppression
of the forces seeking to tear it apart. Crucifixion
was an integral part of this policy. In
today’s society it was the equivalent of mass incarceration, but far more cost
effective than locking people up for years.
Death by crucifixion was slow and painful, it was also very public. In some places, crucifixions were carried out
by the thousands to send a message to the populace that resistance was futile.
Matthew 27:33-44, Mark
15:22-32, Luke 23:33-43 and John 19:17-24 contain the accounts of the
crucifixion. Pilot ordered that Jesus be
flogged and then crucified. Many people
would have likely died from the flogging alone.
Because of the brutal, savage beatings he had already received and then
the flogging Jesus was unable to carry his own cross to the place of execution.
A random stranger was taken out of the crowd and forced to carry the cross for
him. No appeals process, no ACLU, no
Innocence Project, no reprieve, no last meal, no option for an alternate form
Most of Jesus disciples
had run and hid. Peter had denied him, three
times! (Matthew 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:55-62, and John
18:16-18,25-27) Jesus felt the weight of the entire world on his shoulders as
he was raised up on the cross. His
accusers continued to mock him, the officers gambled for his clothes, the crowd
watched expectantly to see if God would save him. Even with his own impending death he offered
eternal life to the thief dying on the cross next to him. At the end he cried out “It is finished”
(John 19:30). When he died there was an
earthquake and the veil in the temple that separated the Holy of Holies was
torn in half (Matthew 27:51). Even the
Roman officer moved by the scene exclaimed that “surely he was the Son of God!”
On the darkest day in
human history an innocent man was convicted and executed for the petty motives
of jealousy, political expediency, and betrayal for 30 pieces of silver. But death isn’t the end of the story. Jesus was buried in a rich man’s tomb
(Matthew 27:57-61, Mark, 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, and John 19:38-42). He was wrapped in a burial shroud and the
tomb was sealed to prevent anyone from taking the body and officers were posted
to keep watch (Matthew 27:62-66), but on the third day he arose. Death could not keep him in the grave. Jesus overcame death and sin to rise
victorious over Satan (Matthew 28:1-8, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-10, and John
20:1-8). On the greatest day in God’s
history his son Jesus defeated Satan once and for all. Not just to end the war between heaven and
hell, but to provide a way for man to once again commune with God, as he had so
long ago in the Garden of Eden. Jesus
became the High Priest and now he sits at the right hand of his Father in
Heaven interceding on our behalf (Hebrew 4:14-16).
Jesus Christ experienced
the Criminal Justice system of his day and went from a free man to a dead man
in 24 hours. Never once did he complain
about his treatment at the hands of abusive officers, a prosecutor with a
political agenda, a judge that didn’t have the courage to follow his convictions,
or a fickle populace that in one week went from a joyous throng hailing him as
a king to a blood thirst mob demanding his execution. Instead he said, “Father forgive them, for
they do not know what they are doing,” even as his life was ebbing away (Luke
Looking at Easter from
this perspective should first of all show that criminal justice has always been
dysfunctional. The MDOC did not invent
nor has it cornered the market in inhuman treatment, unfair rules and
regulations, or bureaucratic officials.
Jesus endured the suffering, even though it had been within his power to
end it, in order to give us an example to follow. By his suffering we have a Savior who can
relate to our situation. We can see that
he was willing to place himself in our position to show us how to live by God’s
grace and mercy. He showed us the true
meaning of forgiveness and that there are no exclusions to the command to
forgive others. With his dying breath he
trusted his Father and so should we. John
3:16-17 says it all, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only
Son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world
to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
I welcome your letters to
talk about my meditations on scripture or what is going on in your lives, or
anything else. I pray for you daily and
I want you to know that you are not forgotten.
Your Brother in Christ