Don’t Go Back In!

Walter Cronkite reports in his autobiography that he once went to Vietnam with former POW Senator John McCain to do a special story on his experiences there.  Cronkite says that nothing he or his staff did could induce McCain to go back into the cell where he had spent years of captivity.  He would go into the prison, down the hall, but he would not go back into that cell. The harshness, the brutality, the hopeless of earthly captivity were so pungent and repugnant to him that he wouldn’t relieve it even for moment.

Why is it that we who have been redeemed from bondage to sin, death, and the Devil willingly go back inside that hellish cell?  Why do we step back inside the bars of guilt when forgiveness has sprung us?  Why do we re-chain ourselves to the fear of death when Baptism has melted those chains?  Why do we let the Devil be our jailer again when the Stronger Man has bound him, freed us, and bound us to and with His own Body and Blood?

I don’t know why, but I know that we do.  We end up treating the Holy Communion like the Old Testament sacrifices.  They were to be a reminder of sin; they were to be a remembrance of guilt, of sin, death, and the power of the Devil.  That’s what Hebrews 10:6  says, “In these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin.”  In the once for all sacrifice of Christ, there is not a reminder of sin but of the forgiveness of them.  Jesus tells us specifically that it is to be a remembrance of Him not of our sins.  Holy Communion is the weekly reminder that our jail cell has been flung open.  The bars of sins have been broken; the chains of Death have been undone, and the jailer has been tied up.

Don’t go back into that cell even for a moment.  The jury isn’t still out.  You were acquitted because Jesus was convicted.  The death penalty that was due you has been suffered by Jesus.  The beatings, the whippings, the shame the Devil would bring down on you have been borne by Jesus, and it would be a downright shame for you undergo them again.

McCain wouldn’t go back into his cell even for the quick snap of a camera, so horrible were the memories of that cell so glorious his freedom now.  You don’t have to back to the time when your sins reined; guilt pressed you; death awaited you, and Satan laughed with delight.  No, you can be as Malachi says because the Sun of Righteousness has risen with healing in His wings and has landed on the Communion Altar.  “You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall” (4:2).  If you have ever seen this, you know the last thing on the calf’s mind is going back in.  It certainly was the last thing on McCain’s mind.  May it not be on your mind at all.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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