Prisons are places where the world is confined and controlled by artificial walls. By saying that the walls are artificial, I am not implying that they are not real, I am simply saying that they are not natural . . . that they have been added by someone else to control and confine their inhabitant.
I have been inside three different prisons in my life . . . twice to play basketball in “scared straight” or evangelistic events, and several other times for pastoral visits to inmates I know. Walking into a prison always gives me pause. Though I have often found lots of evidence of hope and God’s work inside the hearts of the men on the inside, I have found the physical environments of the prisons to be quite tragic. In each case, a beautiful section of farmland or open countryside is hemmed in by razor wire and chain link. Like seeing a lion inside a cage on the plains of the Serengeti, seeing men locked up in these surroundings always screams “something has gone terribly wrong.”
In most cases, the inmates housed in these prisons have made serious mistakes and are paying the penalty for their wrong doings over a series of months or years. Their mistakes in life in partnership with the legal system have placed them inside these artificial walls.
In Matthew 11:1-6, John the Baptist finds himself inside a prison. Actually, if you look closely, he finds himself inside two prisons. The first prison he found himself in was Herod’s dungeon. Apparently being critical of the royal family’s immorality was worthy of hard time in first century Israel. Herod’s dungeon is the most famous prison to artificially hold Jesus’s most famous cousin behind artificial walls. However, Matthew 11 describes a second prison that sought to contain and control Mr. “The Baptist”: the prison of doubt.
Unmet expectations and personal hardship combined to create artificial (and invisible) walls around John’s mind that caused him to doubt what he already knew, question what he already experienced, and worry about what he had already concluded. These concerns artificially began to hem John in and confine and control his emotions. Satan used these experiences to incarcerate John’s mind while Herod held his body captive.
While most of us will not spend any time in Herod’s prison, John’s prison of doubt has many of us inside its walls right now. If your personal experiences are causing you to doubt and worry right now, then this weekend I hope you take “parole” and come to Wildwood Community Church where we will be looking at the key to unlock the razory sharp gates of doubt holding us artificially inside. Read Matthew 11:1-6 before you come and I hope to see you in either our 9:30 or 10:50 worship service.