God spends all his time hanging around prisons waiting for scumbags to find him."Spot on, in so many ways! But there are a great many more prisons around than he might have meant - people trapped in povery, in oppression, in despair, in consumerism... And not only external forces imprison us: everyone becomes a prisoner to the desires to which we give in [2 Pet.2.19] And we all know how that works - they're not our most wonderful, selfless, godly desires! If we're honest, those things aren't just us on a bad day - they're the emprisoned us spilling out when unguarded. We're emprisoned and we're scumbags.
So the good news! "God spends all his time hanging around prisons waiting for scumbags to find him." Or as God said through a poet a long time before the News Quiz was recorded:
"You who seek God, be encouraged, for the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners." Psalm 69.32-33How come? Does it seem a bit strange of a holy God to hang around our sordid prisons, our hearts which fester, our minds which leak scum, so that we could find him? And who would want to find God in such a state?? Wouldn't we rather run away and hide from God if we're in that condition?!
Ah, but when God came to earth, it turned out that he'd rather emprison himself, absorb all our filth and take the whole sentence himself, to set this scumbag prisoner free. That's not just a God who hangs out around prisons vaguely hoping someone might find him. That's the God who moved heaven and earth to break into the prison and rob it of all its prisoner scum. This is the God who lived perfectly as a man in order to take away our prison uniform and give us his own clothes to wear. Here is the God whose Son agreed to be murdered so that his murderers could be adopted as sons.
I worship that God, not a holy philosophy for people with uncharacteristic moments of weakness, but the God and Father of our Master Jesus who came [as Mark recorded]
'not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'The God revealed in Jesus explodes the walls of our inner hatred and self-reliance, plunders the prison, and takes us as free prisoners of Jesus. Our old prison ID is gone. There weren't multiple new IDs available, though: just the One. So from now on, it's not prisoner #57829. It's Jesus. If I'm free in the presence of the kind of God who hangs out round prisons looking for scumbags like me, it's because he's given me Jesus' identity. Hallelujah!