prison or freedom? your choice!
An interesting thing happened in September 2005 when Sylvia Hardy, a 73 year old pensioner from Exeter, was sent to prison. She refused to pay the increase in her council tax which was over the rate of inflation. On principle, she was happy to spend 7 days at Her Majesty's pleasure in Eastwood Park Prison in Gloucestershire as penalty for not paying the £53.71 plus £10 fine imposed on her.
What made the story more interesting was that by Wednesday of the week, a donor had paid her fine and it was revealed that the prison therefore "had no choice but to release her." Apparently this upset Sylvia, who had prepared herself for her week in gaol and was furious that someone had anonymously paid the debt.
This makes however, a fascinating picture of the gospel. For the Bible says that we are sinners and have transgressed God's law and the penalty for that rebellion is God's judgement. The soul that sins shall die, the Bible says, and after that comes the judgement when every thought and deed will be examined. In the light of our judge being the all-knowing holy God, we have no hope of escaping the severest justice and sharing in the condemnation of the devil in the 'lake of fire.' An awful prospect for anyone.
But the Good News of the Bible is this: that just like Sylvia, a Mediator has stepped in between the prosecutor and the defendant and paid the fine. When Sylvia's fine was paid, the prison had no choice but to release her. So likewise, when God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross for sin and for sinners, it was not possible for death to hold Him an longer. Three days later, he rose from the dead, signifying that the penalty was paid. Now for all who believe in Him, we can share the same hope of eternal life, knowing that we are freed from the bitter consequences of our sin, by Christ's substitution for us. God can let us free from the prison of death, for His Son paid the price.
What is all the more remarkable about the story is the unhappiness of the pensioner that someone had paid the debt for her. She was evidently prepared to face a week's gaol, but would she be so willing to face an eternity, cut-off from God, in the fire of hell? I think not! But sadly many people today are making the choice that they would rather risk their eternal souls in the gamble of a life of sin, rather than turn and trust in the Saviour who died for them. He died to pay the penalty, yet so many refuse to let his blood cleanse them from their sin and change their lives. 
So, what about you? Would you prefer heaven or hell? If you have not had your sins forgiven, then you will need to pay the debt yourself - but Jesus offers you a get out of jail free card. It cost Him his life, it shows us His love, but will you trust Him for your liberty?
September 2005