“I had a great husband and two wonderful children but then things changed…” Katie’s* idyllic life was shattered when domestic violence and threats of suicide took hold of her world. She soon found herself in prison. She was in a dark place, shocked and confused as to how this all happened.
In the Bible, Jesus takes his young disciples to Caesarea Philippi, or Paneas, as it was widely known. (Matt. 16) This was not the place you would expect a good Jewish Rabbi to take his teenage pupils. The disciples must have been shocked, “Jesus…uhhh…should we be here?”
Caesarea Philippi was like the Las Vegas of ancient Israel. It was a place of gross debauchery, frenzied worship of the god Pan, and immoral behavior. The word ‘panic’ which we use today is derived from Pan and the erratic practices involved in his worship.
Central to the site is a cave which was believed to be a gateway to the underworld, Hades, and animals were regularly thrown in and sacrificed here. It represented a place of incredible darkness and evil- hence the disciples’ reaction!
Jesus takes his disciples to a place of darkness and here reiterates who He is. He commissions Peter with a leading role in building the Kingdom of God, reassuring both Peter and the team that not even the Gates of Hades can overcome the Kingdom of God. He says this while they are looking at the cave, the Gates of Hades!
Katie found herself in a dark place, but through The Prisoner’s Journey she found Jesus, the Light that pushes out the darkness.
I came across The Prisoner’s Journey program run by Prison Fellowship. For the first time I learnt about Jesus and Christianity and I found the answer. I surrendered my life to him and left my old ways. I have forgiven those who have sinned against me. He gave me strength to endure my sentence despite how heavy my heart was or how dark the moment might be. Darkness fades with the morning and this hard time will pass. Nothing can defeat me. I know that God will break all the chains and He is holding me tight in the darkness and the morning will come soon. Thanks be to God and thanks to Prison Fellowship.
By bringing his disciples to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus demonstrates that the community of his followers needs to get up, go out into the world even with all of its sin, brokenness and darkness. Jesus says to seek out the world, especially those living in darkness, and bring his true Light, the good news of love, healing, forgiveness and restoration.
Break open the gates and push out the darkness, remember nothing will stop or overcome the Light of Jesus. Light always overcomes darkness.
Another participant of The Prisoner’s Journey wrote recently:
This course has helped me re-discover the love of God and receiving forgiveness and forgiving is a big part of my healing. I would recommend this course because I heard testimonies from real live prisoners. It brings hope even in the darkest places. I now have peace and a hope for the future because of Jesus.
The community of Jesus followers must be out there and must engage with the world bringing the Light that defeats all darkness and bringing “hope even in the darkest places”.
As a community of followers of Jesus we go to prisons and bring the light of Jesus to the places of darkness, to people living in darkness and we share with them the light we have discovered ourselves and that we now have within us, lighting the way to true peace and hope for the future because of Jesus.