(Jesus said) "Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Luke 15:7
Beginning next week, 6,000 convicted drug offenders will be released from federal prison.
That's the most number of prisoners ever released at one time. Those who are following these events report these releases could be just the tip of the iceberg. If all goes according to plan, there could be as many as 46,000 drug offenders who have their sentences commuted.
These releases have been made possible by a U.S. Sentencing Commission which reduced the maximum punishments that can be given to drug offenders. Their decision was not applicable just for those who would be convicted in the future; it was also for those who already have been sentenced.
According to the Justice Department, the cases are being reviewed one at a time. In the first batch, 2,000 of those being released are foreigners who will be deported. The others will go to halfway houses or house arrest and then be advanced to supervised release. The only other thing of import I should share is the reason for the change: it is hoped the early releases will reduce the financial burden of overcrowded prisons.
Now when I've shared that story with some folks, their opinion usually is "If you commit the crime, you ought to do the time."
After all, fair is fair, isn't it?
Then I remembered that passage from Luke 15, the one about the angels in heaven rejoicing about repentant sinners. Nowhere can I find any passages which speak about an angel in heaven going up to God's throne of grace and saying, "Hey, those sinners down there, they've committed the crimes. They keep committing the crimes, and they ought to do the time."
And we know what "doing the time" means, don't we? It means an eternity in hell.
No, the angels in heaven don't say things like that. They don't say it because they know that Someone has done the time for us. They know that God's Son, our Savior, came to earth and spent His entire life doing the time. For us He resisted temptation. For us He fulfilled all the Laws. For us He endured death on the cross, and for us He rose from the dead.
Now, because of what Jesus has done, all who are brought to faith in Him have been released.
No longer do we have to fear death and grave. No longer are the fires of hell waiting for us. We are not going to wear an ankle bracelet while we are confined to our homes. We are not going to graduate to some kind of supervised release.
Our parole is absolute and total. Because of Jesus Christ we are free.
And that is cause for us -- like the angels in heaven -- to rejoice for ourselves and every other sinner who repents and acknowledges Jesus as their Redeemer and Lord.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, may I always give thanks for what You have done for me, a poor miserable sinner. Further, may I rejoice for all the others who have been rescued by Your grace. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries