My birthday hardly ever falls on Easter weekend, since it's in March. But this year it was on Good Friday. Logan and I went to a nearby prison with a few people from the church to do a service for Easter. There were 3 elders/pastors, a pianist (the pastor’s wife), and us. The guards locked the doors behind us as we entered a room with about a dozen men where we sat in a circle in wooden chairs. They were not handcuffed, nor do they wear uniforms. They were dressed like anyone on the street. Some looked a bit rough with teeth missing and tattoos, but for the most part, that circle of chairs could have been anywhere.
Bernard, an elder at our church, led our group and did an amazing job with the men. You could tell he loved them. The men were from all over the world: Russia, Spain, Italy, Nigeria, Georgia, and of course France. Logan played guitar and we sang 8 praise and worship songs in French. The songs were interspersed in between reading the Easter story in the book of John. Bernard had a Bible for each man, and they took turns reading a passage. French sounds so beautiful - it was interesting to hear these rough guys in prison read the Word of God in such a beautiful language. Of course the Word is beautiful in every language.
Bernard had prepared questions to ask them after reading a passage together. Some had a knowledge of the Bible, others did not. When Bernard posed a question and some would answer “wrong” it was sometimes hard for me to distinguish if they didn’t understand the language (welcome to my world), or if they were likely hearing the story for the first time. Bernard was so patient and loving in the way he listened to them, and kept directing them back to the Word.
It is always so amazing to try and comprehend the magnitude of the cross. That moment changed the world. That final moment when the weight of every single sin that has ever been committed, or ever will be committed, was weighing Jesus down. And then he said, “Tout est accompli.” What did Jesus say right before that? “J’ai soif.” He was thirsty. In the midst of pain and sorrow and sin, he was thirsty.
Reading the Word is so satisfying - its like a big cold drink of water on a hot day. I pray that these men’s thirst was quenched by hearing the truth, or at least that they got a taste of the freshest water their soul will ever know.
Sitting in that room, surrounded by criminals, I happened to think that Jesus was hung on the cross between two criminals. He loved them, he died for them, and even in their last breath they were given the opportunity to be forgiven and saved. One mocked Jesus, and one believed that he was the Christ.
And then I think about my sin, just as great as any criminal sitting in any prison around the world. And yet, Jesus forgives me, loves me, and quenches my thirst time and time again. Praise the Lord.
Thanks for praying for us here in France. We are consumed with studies but also want to seize opportunities to step outside of ourselves and be a blessing to others.