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Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Prisoner

A warehouse sits dark and lonely on a waterfront. It's early Friday morning, and a slight mist clings to the pavement like a soft silk dress. The only sound comes from a fog horn out on the water.

Inside the warehouse, a man sits in a chair with his hands tied behind his back. His hair is oily and black, his shirt undone with buttons missing, and both shoes seem to be missing. Bags are under his eyes from lack of sleep. He looks around the large room, hoping for some help to come breaking through the door. Another man in a dark suit and hat stands next to him with a cell phone in his hand.

"Just so's we got this straight, the police will walk into the room, find you unconscious with some of the stolen money, and the rest of us will be long gone."

The bound man looks up quickly. "But they're going to think I stole the money, and you'll have gotten away!"

The nicely dressed man breaks out into a big grin. His teeth are clean and bright, and he pronounces each syllable with distinction. "You know, they said you were a smart one, and it’s nice to see that they were right. You'll be all alone with the cash, and no one will believe you." The boss looks over his right shoulder and calls out, "Now, Rocco, I've got to make some arrangements. You watch him. And remember, we don't talk to the prisoners!" 

A tall, stocky man walks over. He has grey eyes, brown hair slicked back flat against the top of his head. His blue striped shirt seems one size too small on him, and the grey vest rests against his chest unbuttoned. "Right, boss!" he says. "Hey, if you're going over to Jerry's, can you tell him to pick me up a sandwich when he comes over. I haven't eaten since yesterday's lunch."

"Stop wining!" the boss replies. "Jerry won't be here until 2 o'clock. Now just shut up, and do what you're told!" The boss opens up his cell phone and walks out through a side door.

Some silence stretches out throughout the room. Nothing else is heard but for the slam of a car door outside, then the motor running before the car skids away. After several minutes, the prisoner speaks. "Well, I won't be all alone."

Rocco jumps at the noise. "What?"

"God will be with me."

The big-set man gives a small laugh and says, "Oh, sure." He pauses, then turns to the prisoner and says, "What does God have to do with anything?"

The prisoner looks up, thankful that he at last has someone to talk to. The previous day, he had stepped out of the market with some milk and cheese when the white Chevy pulled up suddenly. He didn't have any time to yell for help before someone got out, dragged him into the bag seat, and knocked him over the head. He remained unconscious until that evening, waking up in the chair in the dark with a bruise on the back of his head. He couldn't see anyone, but could only hear murmuring in the next room and the sound of waves outside. His mouth was stuck to the roof of his mouth and his wrists were sore from the ropes. But at last, he had someone's attention. "God created us all. He's known us since we were babies, and He's with us even now." Rocco looks over his shoulder to see if God is there. The man laughed and continued. "He created us to know Him and to love each other. But we chose to go our own way. That's what sin is all about."

"You mean, like lying and stealing?"

The prisoner went on, encouraged by the interaction. "Right, and because of this sin, we’ve been separated from God. But God provided hope for us. He sent Jesus, His only Son. Jesus came and died on the cross with all our sins, then rose from the grave three days later. If we put our trust in Jesus, God will forgive us our sins, and we will live forever with Him."

Rocco put his hands in his pocket and looked up. He thought there were owls in the attic above, but wasn't sure. "I once stole a baseball bat from Jimmy Dilucchi. God would forgive me for that if I believed in Jesus, right? He looked over at the man in the chair. "But He wouldn't forgive me for the bigger stuff, huh? I mean, I haven't been exactly a boy scout, if you know what I mean!"

The prisoner shook his head. “Jesus died for all of our sins: past, present and future. If you put your trust in Jesus, God will forgive you. He will then give you His Spirit so that you can have fellowship with Him.”

A phone rings. Rocco searches his pockets, pulls out the cell phone and speaks into it. "Yeah? Um…OK. I just want pastrami on rye. Don't put any mayonnaise on it. It makes me fart. Yeah…yeah…'don't talk to the prisoner'. Right, boss!” Rocco puts the phone away and stands silently for a moment. “Why?”

“Why shouldn’t you talk to me?”

Rocco starts to shift uncomfortably. “No. Why did God do all of this stuff? Sending His Son and all? I mean, if I was God, I wouldn’t waste all my time with people who kept doing what I didn’t want them to do! I’d just …well…" He gives a small laugh. "You can guess!”

“God did this because He loves you. Before He even created the world, He saw who you would be. He saw everything you would do. You are unique and special in His eyes. And He knows that the most wonderful thing in the world for you is to know His forgiveness and receive true life from Him.”

Rocko is processing all this in his head. He turns to the prisoner and says, “So, Jesus died for my sins.”

“That’s right.”

“And all I have to do to receive His forgiveness and get true life is to believe in Jesus.”

“That’s right. And He wants you to know Him, to walk in His ways…not in your own. To seek His face and trust that He will lead you in the right path."  The prisoner pauses, then says with a smile, "And He'd like you to go to church, too!"

Rocco pauses for a second, looking down at the ground. Then he gives a small nod, goes around to the back of the prisoner and unties his bonds. “Get out of here.”

The prisoner stands up, in shock. “What?! Why are you doing this?”

The big man stands there looking at the ropes that he just untied. "Because I believe in Jesus. And because…I guess…I want to show God that I love Him, too. Now get out.”

The prisoner turns and runs off. Rocko wait for a moment. Then he pulls out his cell phone and dials a number. “Hey boss! I have some bad news for you". He pauses for a moment, and then says, "And I have some good news for you, too!” Rocco walks out of the warehouse, never to return again.

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