Walking out of prison is not something you do. Even with all of the mystique of stories about prison escapes, when it comes right down to it, prisons are places you go to but don’t get out of by your own will or effort.
But what if someone sets you free?
In this fifth week of the ||40days|| journey we are looking at following Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel we read what appears to be an autobiographical account of Jesus calling Matthew to follow Him. Matthew is a tax collector for the Romans who, like most in his trade, was likely enriching himself at the expense of his own people. He was not liked by the Romans because he was a Jew, while at the same time he was not liked much by the Jews because he was seen a traitor and a thief. Matthew is caught up in a prison both of his own choices and his circumstances. It is at this point that we read about a very straightforward encounter between Jesus and Matthew:
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow Me,’ He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him. (Matthew 9:9)
Sometimes the prisons that hold us are not physical but spiritual realities with personal and social impact. Matthew is not simply imprisoned by money but by the underlying greed and desire within himself, as well as the surrounding anger and hostility from others. He cannot break out of his own prison. He is trapped at multiple levels.
Many times our own lives are much like Matthew’s situation. We are locked within prisons from which it seems impossible to break free. We are dealing with spiritual issues. We are experiencing their personal impact on our lives, both internally and relationally. We cannot seem to break out.
Here, as with Matthew, Jesus enters into our lives with very simple words: “Follow Me.” Jesus’ words are powerful because they are an invitation from One with authority. He is calling us into a new life of freedom. Jesus gives us a new identity marked by His love, acceptance and forgiveness. Jesus gives us a new life where we are valued more by what He says about us than by what anyone else might say.
It is no wonder that the very next verse in Matthew’s story shows Jesus celebrating over dinner with Matthew and his friends. It is a joy-filled meal for one who has been set free and wants to share the news. It is the home-coming meal of a prisoner set free by the Deliverer.
Today, whatever prisons you may be caught up in, Jesus comes as One inviting us to follow Him to freedom. What prisons are you in? His words are powerful because He stands with authority to call each and every one of us out.
He says: “Follow Me.”