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  • Sarah Raad

Prisoners

When we carry our cross, are in the company of the Perfect Son of Man – who carried a Cross though He had no need to – because He, unlike me, never ever sinned…

Good Friday Morning (James Tissot)

I recently read an extract from a memoir called “Through the Valley of the Kwai”, which was written by Ernest Gordon. In the memoir, Gordon described his experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war in Thailand during the Second World War.


During the period of his imprisonment, 12,000 allied prisoners were starved to death while they worked to build a railway under the direction of their captors, the Japanese army. However, Gordon explains that during their imprisonment, it was not the Japanese who were the biggest threat to the prisoners – it was the prisoners themselves…


He described the behaviours of the prisoners who informed on each other, stole from each other, fought each other and did terrible things to each other just to gain favour with their Japanese captors so that they could survive. Morale among the prisoners was understandably low.


“As conditions steadily worsened, as starvation, exhaustion and disease took an ever-growing toll, the atmosphere in which we lived was increasingly poisoned by selfishness, hatred, and fear. We were slipping rapidly down the scale of degradation…. This became our norm. We called it ‘The Ladder Club.’ Its motto was ‘I’ve got the ladder up, Jack. I’m all right.’ The weak were trampled underfoot, the sick ignored or resented, the dead forgotten.” (Ernest Gordon, “Through the Valley of the Kwai”, p.74-75).


Then, a couple of the men decided that they would start a Bible reading and discussion group in the camp. After all – they reasoned – their faith had kept them going, there was no reason it would not help others too. The men met secretly at night and at first the numbers were really small and there was not much interest in the group, but over time, the numbers grew into the hundreds.

And while they were reading their Bibles, huddled in the darkness, trapped in the camp – sick, starving, dying and hopeless – the men discovered something wonderful… They discovered that Christ bore many of the same burdens as they did…

You see, Christ was poor – very very very poor. Often, He had no home, no food, no friends in high places. He literally relied on the generosity of strangers without ever planning for how He would eat or drink or where He would sleep. And Christ was tired too. He was tired from His work, first as a carpenter and later as the DIVINE Rabbi who taught and performed miracles for multitudes. And Christ was disappointed by rejection and bureaucratic injustice.


And – just like those prisoners – Christ was imprisoned UNFAIRLY, tortured UNJUSTLY, and killed BARBAROUSLY…


And I have been reflecting on the revelations of those prisoners, because Gordon explained that changes occurred among the prisoners in the camp as they made these realisations about Christ…


You see, the men changed when they realised, they were not alone. They changed in their interactions with one another. They began to take care of each other and support each other rather than stepping all over each other on the “Ladder” of life…


And that – I have come to realise in the last year or so – is really the point of that Perfect, Eternal Sacrifice on the Cross…


Yes – of course Christ suffered and died to save us from our sins – to REDEEM us – but He could have done that in private, in silence and in secret. He did not need to do that ON THE CROSS. And yet, He. Did. Not. Die. In. Secret.


Instead, Christ was PUBLICLY executed as a criminal! He died as a PRISONER for all the world to see.


And He did that so that those prisoners – and I, and you too – could see that when we suffer, we are not alone…


You see, God loves us so much that He not only sent His only Son to suffer and die to Redeem us – but He sent Him to become a prisoner first – so that we would know that every human soul ever born on this earth must carry a cross to Calvary if they wish to be redeemed…


Because when we carry our cross, are in the company of the Perfect Son of Man – who carried a Cross though He had no need to – because He, unlike me, never ever sinned…


And how could I complain about my imprisonment in this world when I am in the company of One such as He?


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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