October 18, 2012
(Jesus said) "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" Matthew 25:41
Toward the end of September, I had the opportunity to speak at the LCMS Training and Equipping Conference for Prison and Jail Ministry.
While there I met many fascinating individuals and congregational representatives, who are doing great hands-on ministry for the 2.4 million prisoners in the U.S. It was interesting listening to these pioneers of prison ministry talk about maximum-security prisons, minimum-security facilities, and all kinds of prisons with all kinds of protection and precaution levels between these two.
Now, if I were given my druthers, I would prefer to stay out of all prisons, at least as a resident.
On the other hand, if I were going to be incarcerated, I think I'd like to be locked away at the only jail in American Samoa: the Territorial Correctional Facility. From recent news articles, that jail seems to have some perks that even America's minimum security jails lack.
Curious as to what they might be? I hope so, because I'm about to explain.
It appears the jailers, at least two of them, allowed the inmates out of prison to go buy beer and food. Apparently, it was a good arrangement: the criminals had their beer, and the guards ended up receiving potato chips and cookies.
The situation might have gone on unnoticed, if it weren't for the fact the prisoners didn't hide their contraband too well, and the jailers weren't very picky as to who they let go shopping. Apparently, the higher-ups took a dim view of letting out a man who is serving time for having attacked another individual with a machete. All of this explains why two of the guards have now become inmates in the Territorial Correctional Facility.
All of this takes me to the text for today's devotion. From what I've been told every prisoner has the hope that someday they will be released. Even though the judge has said they have "no possibility of parole," criminals still think some kind of weird circumstance or situation will give them their freedom.
Our text reminds us there is a prison from which there are no great escapes; there is no appeal; there are no retrials, and no clemency is ever accorded to those who are there. The Lord Jesus Himself refers to this prison as the place of "the eternal fire."
Thankfully, it is a prison to which no person need ever be sentenced.
Knowing the pain and suffering that awaits unsaved souls, the Lord sent His Son into this world to offer Himself as the ransom -- the payment -- which would offer clemency and forgiveness to all who were brought to faith in the Christ. To accomplish this job, which would grant forgiveness to a condemned world, Jesus lived a life of perfection and carried the sins we have committed. Then, when everything necessary to win our salvation had been accomplished, He allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross and die the death that should have been ours.
Isaiah 53:5 summed up Jesus' sacrifice by saying, "He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed."
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, for giving Yourself to win my salvation, You have my eternal gratitude. By Your suffering and death I have been given complete freedom, forgiveness and salvation. May my life express my gratitude. In Your Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries