Holy Week has taken on a new dimension since I started working in prison ministry. This is the week we remember that Jesus himself knew what it meant to be arrested, held prisoner, and sentenced as a criminal.
This Lent, I have been considering that moving moment on the cross. As Jesus is dying, the men on the cross next to him start speaking. One has only jeers and taunts. But the second says something truly insightful:
“Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”*
Like many of the men and women who take our Sycamore Tree course, this man had a moment of revelation of the impact of his own crime. He probably also had a difficult and broken background – he is being hung in one of the most oppressive empires ever known.
Jesus, despite his own suffering, sees this man – sees all of him, the suffering he has endured and the suffering he has inflicted. And He offers him compassion and comfort:
“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
As we journey through Holy Week, we pray in confidence that the men and women we work with are seen by God, and that He pours out His compassion and comfort on them.
And we pray with joy, too, for all that Easter Day means! No one is beyond hope. Every life in prison can be transformed by the love and grace of Christ!
Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen works as Communication Officer for Prison Fellowship. Part of her role includes preparing the monthly Prayer Diary for volunteers and supporters. You can sign up to receive the Prayer Diary by email using this link. Thank you for praying with us!
*You can find this story in the Bible in Luke 23:32-43.