Being a captive

I have a blast playing “scissors” with our 3-year-old twins. No, it’s not dangerous. Sprawled out across the living room floor, I wait for either Luke or Kaleigh to get close enough. Then, suddenly, trap them between my legs and hold them captive. Once let loose, they come back again and again. I guess they love being caught.

The appearance of Jesus in the temple, according to John 7, right in the middle of the Festival of Booths created quite a stir. He had become the talk of the town. Mastery over disease and ailments of all kinds. Fearless teaching. Penetrating answers to any question. Could Jesus be “that guy,” the prophet foretold centuries before in the Scriptures? Some said, “Yes!” Others found that idea absurd.

Flexing their perceived muscles, the chief priests and Pharisees felt the need to intervene. This was a moment to put an end to the activities of this Galilean imposter. With a quick call to the officers of the temple police, the religious leaders had them arrest Jesus as a disturber of the peace, one perverting the people. What happens is more than just a little ironic.

Those sent to arrest Jesus return as “captives” of Jesus’ eloquence. “Why didn’t you bring him with you?” demanded the irritated priests. “Because no one ever spoke like this man!” replied the police.

They had not laid hold of Jesus. Jesus had laid hold of them.

Was it not the same with the fanatical Saul of Tarsus? It was his avowed intention and inflexible purpose to search out all followers of Jesus and bring them bound back to Jerusalem for trial. But on the way to Damascus, Saul was himself “arrested,” apprehended by the exalted and glorified Christ whom he saw in a heavenly close encounter. And so it has been through the ages. Many who come to scoff at the name of Jesus, stay afterward to pray a long time with a cry for mercy. They have become happy “prisoners” of the overpowering grace and compassion of Christ.

How powerful and life-changing is the work of the Holy Spirit! The Church rejoices on the Day of Pentecost when 3,000 devout listeners were converted. In repentance they called out to Peter, “What must we do to be saved?” To be saved from spiritual ignorance and blindness. To be rescued from obsessions with self and a spectrum of worthless idols. To be set free from the shackles of guilt and fear of dying. To be delivered from the devil’s spell of darkness and despair. The Holy Spirit convinces us through the Gospel that being a “captive” of Jesus Christ is the only way to endless joy and peace, love and life – in the now and in the not yet.

It sounds utterly ridiculous to our rebel natures that yearn for freedom from God. “I won’t be a captive of anyone,” people insist, whether it’s a bad friendship, a bad employer, a bad government, or a bad religion. But the Spirit of God persuades us that being a captive to Jesus is the most satisfying and rewarding way to live. No one has our best interests at heart like Jesus. No one has loved us to the deepest extent He has.

Taking Jesus captive. Really? It could only happen insofar as God’s Son permitted it. During another Jewish festival, Passover, Jesus was captured and condemned to die. Yet that captivity led to a sweet release for all true captives, trapped in sin’s lock down.

The Holy Spirit, working through the Scriptures and through those who share its message, still is taking prisoners. “”Prisoner of Jesus.” The apostle Paul identified himself as that in his opening greeting in several of his New Testament letters.

I wouldn’t mind having those words on my grave marker one day. Like my kids, I love being caught.