He was an old man now. His body had been battered by the storms of life: Each wind leaving him more stooped; each flood eroding his vitality. At one time he had it all. He was born into a family of privilege. He had the finest education available – His personal tutor was world-renown. He held a position on the most powerful council in the nation. His word was law for both church and state.
Now, though, many said he had “thrown it all away!” He claimed to have heard the very voice of Jesus and it hit him with such force that it literally knocked him to the ground. When he got back up he was headed in a totally different direction in life. Now he was widely known as a “fool” and letters circulated that publicized his insanity. He left everything he had – possessions, position, privilege, power, prestige – all left behind to “follow Jesus.”
He spent his shortened-life going from town to town to teach and serve – starting churches, loving and teaching God’s people and those far from God. For food and shelter, he was dependent upon other’s generosity and often a part time job. Everything he owned in the world could be wrapped up inside of his cloak and carried with him. Now he was on death row as a religious radical that was a threat to the state.
I’ve often wondered what the conversation might have been with dungeon cell mates.
“You’re a fool man! You had it made. You could have coasted through life. Look at you now – Whata ya got?”
A peaceful smile creases his weathered face as he shapes his reply. “Well, if Jesus is not alive and He didn’t talk to me, then I have no explanation for what I’ve experienced. I’ve known joy in spite of pain, and hope in spite of suffering. Through my weakness, I’ve become strong. If His Word is not true, then I am losing nothing but my life. But, if His Word is true – and I’m absolutely confident that it is – then I am losing nothing but the confines of this life. I will lay my head down on the block soon, and I will awake in the presence of the One for whom I’ve lived. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
“You’re a fool, Paul! A bloody fool!”
He turns back to the letter he’s writing and scrawls his last words in huge letters to compensate for his shaking hands and failing sight.
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness… Make every effort to come to me soon; and when you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.”
The books – the books of God. The parchments, on which were scrawled the words of God. Yes, that was why he was here. That was what he had invested his life in, the words and books of God. He sets his quill pen down and smiles once more as he picks up a charred stick and begins to scrawl upon the dungeon wall: “The Word of God is not imprisoned!”