by Bob Wickizer

Once and for all
Bob Wickizer
Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21
4 Lent

A woman priest in North Carolina, who does a lot of prison ministry, told me once that incarcerated violent offenders lean heavily on the crucifixion of Jesus as the only way through which violence our sins can be forgiven. Every one of these prisoners had literally drawn someone else's blood in their crimes and many had lost some of their own blood as well. For them the violent and bloody scenes of Jesus nailed hands and feet to the cross, hung there to suffocate and finally lanced with a spear were not some kind of unpleasantness to be avoided at all costs. For these men who knew such violence first hand, were confronted with a vivid reality that God loves THEM so much that God gave Jesus over to a gruesome death so that these men might be forgiven.

When you have experienced violence whether as victim or as aggressor, confronting the power of God's forgiving love through the crucifixion of Jesus will change you forever. An 18th century sailor managed to become one of the best of the best in the lucrative "slave - sugar - rum" trade triangle. In his early twenties he had been forcibly impressed into the British Navy in the middle of the Atlantic. Within a year as the lowest ranking mate on board a British Naval ship, this sailor's vile behavior landed him in the brig so often that the captain pondered whether to execute the man or put him ashore. The captain chose the latter and young John Newton was actually enslaved for several years on a Caribbean island.

Eventually he was rescued and Newton worked his way up to become captain of his own ship. He was ruthless in his trading and worse with his human cargo. Bad weather in the North Atlantic nearly sank him not once but twice. In the second near disaster en route to Liverpool, the storm ripped both masts and all the rigging from the ship. Several crew members washed overboar ...

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