24th March 2016

I recognise most people wouldn't plan a visit to a prison as part of a family holiday with young children, but that is exactly what I did when visiting San Francisco many years ago.

I took my children to Alcatraz Island, otherwise known as 'The Rock'. Alcatraz cellAlcatraz is a small island located in the middle of San Francisco Bay in California, and over the years it served as a lighthouse, a military fortification, and then a federal prison until 1963.

Today the island is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, supervised by the National Park Service as an historic site and is open to tours. Alcatraz is possibly the most infamous of all prisons with one of its most notable residents being Al Capone. Those who ran Alcatraz liked to say that nobody ever escaped alive and the prison logged no officially successful escape. Most prisoners who tried to flee The Rock were either captured, killed or drowned.

The most famous escape attempt involved three men; Frank Morris, and brothers John and Clarence Anglin. Their exploits were popularized in the film Escape from Alcatraz. The three disappeared from their cells on 11 June 1962 in one of the most intricate escapes ever devised. After escaping Alcatraz, articles belonging to the prisoners were found on the nearby Angel Island, and official reports into their escape state that the prisoners drowned while trying to reach the mainland in the cold waters of the bay.

Despite many claims, the actual fate of the escapees remains unknown, they were never seen again, either alive or dead.

The authorities still believe that no one successfully escaped from The Rock.

Some 2000 years ago, an attempt was made to escape from the most secure jail known to man.

A rock or stone weighing some 2000 lbs was placed in front of the cell as well as a military guard which was placed at the entry of the jail. So as to be doubly sure that the convict would not escape, the authorities ensured that the prisoner was dead too.

But in the most daring of escapes, the prisoner, who was Jesus managed to escape.

John, in his gospel, gives an account of the story following Jesus' escape, stain glass"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!' Then Simon Peter...went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen." [John 20:1-2, 6-7 NIV]

According to Mark's account, people struggled to believe that Jesus had escaped His imprisonment when he recounted "…he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it." [Mark 16:9-11 NIV]

2000 years ago people struggled to believe that Jesus had escaped, but Jesus is still free!

Authorities found His prison garments but not His body. However, it needs to be reported that Jesus is not in hiding, but He is too far away from the hands of corrupt earthly justice.

Jesus escaped.

He beat the prison cell of the grave and death which would have had Him incarcerated forever.

Jesus got away, and even better news than this, He is coming back again.

Let's share the good news that Jesus escaped and He is returning to this world one day soon.

[Ian Sweeney]

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25th May 2018 Messenger vol 123 Issue 10

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