Known worldwide as a symbol of American freedom, the Statue of Liberty was actually a gift to the American people funded by people from all around the world with its design and planning done by the nation of France. Though I had seen it from the air, I didn’t have the chance to visit the statue up close and personal, until just a few years ago with some friends of ours. As we began to enter, I noticed on a wall inside the base an inscription written by the American poet Emma Lazarus. This was a poem she had originally written as part of an effort to raise funds for the project. Though the statue itself was dedicated and opened to the public in 1886, her poem was forgotten. But friends of Emma remembered her words and continued to lobby for them to be included until finally a bronze plaque with her timeless lines was added in 1903. Its second verse which is most remembered says:
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
As we approach Memorial Day I am thankful for the freedoms I can enjoy because of the sacrifice of so many men and women who died defending the ideas behind the lines on the Statue of Liberty. But those words should also remind us of another person who came to offer an even greater freedom to captives, 2,000 years ago. His name was Jesus and He did not raise a torch, but instead He Himself was raised up and nailed to a cross. There He suffered and died in exchange for freedom from sin and death for anyone who would come to Him in faith. Today, Jesus is still calling out. His words are not etched on a bronze plaque instead they are but by the spoken by Holy Spirit in our hearts.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
In my capacity as a pastor I have had the opportunity to visit a few people who have served time in prison. Two of those men needed a ride home on the day of their release.
As we rode in the car neither of those guys called, “Wait! Stop the car! I want to go back to jail!”. In fact their conversation was filled with stories about the bad food, the cold nights and the difficulties and dangers they had faced.
In today’s verse Jesus is talking about getting us out of jail. He put up bail money and secured our release date. Then as the prison gates opened He personally met us at the curb. Jesus brought us to live with Him in His own home. He gave us a way to be washed clean then opened up His closet and gave us clean new clothes. A delicious meal was waiting for us at His table and a job opening was found for us in His kingdom. What in the world ever possesses us to wish for prison meals or our lives as inmates in the penitentiary of sin? Jesus is no slave master. He is the one who wrote the first emancipation proclamation and then signed it with His blood!
And you will will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
We greatly appreciated the chance to see the Statue of liberty for the first time last week. It not only is an amazing place so intertwined with our history in America it has an equally important story.
It was touching to realize that people from not only France but from around the world gave donations to help bring the Statue to New York harbor. Freedom is a hope and longing for us all. At the exit from the museum there was a plaque listing sayings about freedom. Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, and many others I didn’t recognize were each quoted. Most of the ideas seemed good and appropriate but I so wished to see something from the greatest liberator of all time, Jesus Christ. Everyone else seems to be given their honor except Him.
But 2000 years ago it was no different. Everyone else was honored while Jesus was crucified. But He died neither angry nor heartbroken. He breathed His last finished His work and purchased true freedom for anyone who will trust Him with their heart! What are you going to do with the precious gift of real freedom He offers you today?