Kruiz edited
In Bonds for Christ
Wednesday of Lent 1
13 March 2019
Some years ago, I received letters from men in the Texas prison system for murder. You always recognize a letter from prison before you open the envelope, because the return address includes a prisoner number. The men were replying to an offer I made on a radio program I used to host, "Dying to Live." They wrote to me to get a copy of the Small Catechism of Martin Luther. But there was more to these letters than just a request for free reading material. One inmate requested not only a Small Catechism but also a copy of the Book of Concord. I figured that any prisoner that could ask for a copy of the Book of Concord ought to get one! Immediately, I mailed one to him. These men, although in bonds and serving time in the prison system of the state of Texas, also confessed their Lord Christ in terms so clear and faithful that any free Christian should envy this confession. Although they are serving time for reasons that are legitimate; paying a debt to society as they freely admitted, they are also bound to their Bibles by the leg irons of incarceration.
 
The Apostle Paul also suffered imprisonment and bonds many times in his ministry. However, he never suffered for civil crimes worthy of punishment, but was punished by the civil authorities for the crime of preaching Christ. He was bound over for trial before the Emperor, when as a Roman citizen he appealed from a lesser court to the Emperor. He spent some years in Rome under the surveillance of the Praetorian Guard while under house arrest. He was no danger to these crack imperial troops, although while he suffered bonds he used his time to proclaim Christ, not only to those who visited him, but also to the guardsmen whose duty put them there. This is what a preacher loves: a captive audience! The free had been bound to Christ through the instrument of bondage. Christ used that instrument of bondage, weakness and imprisonment to create a powerful witness to His death and His power to forgive and restore the fallen and make them free. The preaching of Christ reached into the household of the Caesar.
 
While the gospel's enemies thought they were silencing the Apostle, God was using him to proclaim His salvation of the world in Christ. The harder Satan battled, the more completely he was defeated. The bonds of the Apostle offended none who truly believed the message of the crucified and resurrected Savior. For the same had been worked upon his Master, who was bound and put to death to redeem the world from the bondage of sin and death. Maybe it was right that the church's greatest teacher and missionary was also a man who spent a fair amount of time in jail, in bonds for Christ.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"In what does Paul glory? In bonds, in afflictions, in chains, in scars. He said, 'I bear on my body the marks of Jesus' (Gal 6:17), as though they were some great trophy. And again, 'Because of the hope of Israel I am wearing this chain' (Acts 28:20). And again, 'For which I am an ambassador in chains' (Eph 6:20). What is this? You are not ashamed? You are not afraid going about the world as a prisoner? Aren't you afraid that someone might charge your God with weakness? Aren't you concerned that anyone should on this account refuse to come near you and to join the fold? No, says he, not such are my bonds. They can shine brightly even in kings' palaces. 'It has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear' (Phil 1:13-14). Here is a force in bonds stronger than the raising of the dead. They beheld me bound, and they are the more courageous. For where bonds are, there of necessity is something great also. Where affliction is, there truly is salvation also, there truly is solace, there truly are great achievements. For when the devil kicks, then doubtless he is hit. When he binds God's servants, then most of all does the word gain ground.
 
"See how this is everywhere the case. Paul was imprisoned. In the prison he did these things by the very bonds themselves. He was imprisoned at Rome, and brought the more converts to the faith. Not only was he himself emboldened, but many others also because of him. He was imprisoned at Jerusalem, and preaching in his bonds he amazed the king (Acts 26:28) and made the governor tremble (Acts 26:25). For being afraid, it is related, he let him go. He that had bound him was not ashamed to receive instruction concerning the things to come at the hands of him whom he had bound. In bonds he sailed, and salvaged the shipwreck, and bound fast the tempest. It was when he was in bonds that the serpent bit him, and fell off his hand, having done him no harm. He was bound at Rome, and preaching in bonds drew thousands to his cause, holding forward, in the place of every other, this very argument, that is, his chain."

 John Chrysostom,
Homilies on Ephesians, 8
Acts 27:33-44

As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food. It will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you." And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.) And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.

Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf.

The soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus You were bound by sinful men, judged by unjust judges, and transfixed upon the accursed tree, that we might be set free from sin and death. Grant that we might not so desire freedom in this world, that we would be unwilling to be bound for the sake of Your gospel. Amen.
 
For Becky Junker, that the Lord Jesus would grant healing at the hands of doctors and other health professionals
 
For our homes and families, that that they may be places of refuge in times of temptation

For husbands, that they would sacrifice themselves for their wives and families and be signs in this world of our Lord Christ's love for His bride, the church
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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