But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” Acts 5:19-20 NRSV
When we are in a jam it’s natural we turn to God for relief. Like the apostles, we want God to miraculously open our prison door (even if we’ve built the prison ourselves, brick by brick, and locked ourselves in a cell of our own making).
God will open doors, in miraculous ways. But, there’s a catch. We must submit ourselves to God’s will – we must walk through that door as willing servants of the Kingdom. And – this is the biggie – we must accept that what’s on the other side of that door may be harder than what we’re leaving behind.
The apostles weren’t freed to find safety. They were freed to preach the Gospel where it was needed, and where they surely would be recaptured. They obeyed, were rearrested, and flogged. They kept preaching, and all but John were martyred in the grotesque ways humans contrive to torture and kill each other. John escaped that fate in exile, after an attempt to boil him alive.
At the end of Acts 5 the apostles “rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name (Jesus Christ).” Why so happy in their suffering? Because they understood that to be exalted they had to be humbled, to live they had to die to the self grounded in the desires of this world.
The apostles already had embraced the death of pride, of ego and greed. In that death they became one with God through Christ, and were ready to follow God in a glory that could not be contained in any cell, and that physical death could never diminish.
Our physical walk with God – if we submit to it – may not be easy in the terms of this world. But, if we accept the death of our false self, and live instead the true life of Spirit, then there is nothing that can truly harm us, in this life or the next.
Lord, grant us the courage today to die to ourselves, to live only in and through you, and in that union to experience the freedom which no bars can contain. Amen.