Scripture: Luke 4.18
…He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.
Reflection: Freedom for Prisoners :: Epiphany
By John Tillman
Just a few chapters after his Nazareth sermon and his declaration of “freedom for the prisoners” Jesus travels to the region of Gerasenes to free an unusual prisoner. The demoniac of the Gerasenes could not be captured or detained. He could break any chains that were put on him, yet remained captive to the evil inside of him.
Addiction is a prison similar to the demoniac’s. Addicts often maintain freedom of movement but are enslaved in every other possible way. Substance addictions, sex addictions, pornography addictions, gambling addictions, and technology addictions damage all of us, including the addicts, their family members, and their victims.
In some cases we commercialize addicts, building an economy on supplying their fix. In some cases we criminalize addicts, locking them away from society. In some cases we sympathize with them, treating them as having a medical problem. In some cases we stigmatize them, dismissing their addiction as just an excuse for bad behavior.
Our human concept of freedom has a prerequisite of innocence or at least, nobility. Jailbreak movies and television shows nearly always include as the main character a wrongfully accused, innocent man who we long to see freed.
But in reality we, like the people of Gerasenes, fear those escaping prison and those who would help them escape. We fear Christ partly because the freedom Christ brings is undeserved and is not merely for the noble.
Make no mistake. The Gospel is a jailbreak. Jesus is a thief in the night, robbing the possessions of the strong man, Satan—stealing away with captives who foolishly, yet willingly sold themselves to the debtor’s prison of sin.
Make no second mistake. We are not noble captives or innocents. We, who are escaping, do not deserve to see the light of day as free men and women. Sin is our crime, our addiction, and our prison. Yet Jesus comes to free us nonetheless.
And what would our liberator Christ, have us do? He gives us a choice. We can, like the townspeople, exile Christ, and the freedom he brings from our land, preferring to manage our addictions rather than be cured. Or like the demoniac we can go, living in radical freedom, to tell others.
To manifest Christ, we must show what Christ has done for us as what it is—a radical jailbreak setting prisoners free.
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
– From Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.