A Shadow on a Busy Street

It was like something from a Star Trek movie, almost like traveling through a wormhole. One by one trees, buildings, and towns flew by. Just one blink and one would miss an entire town. But this train wasn’t going to a place where just a few hundred people lived. No. It was flying speedily to the great city of Chicago.

This was the view of a few young college students looking for a Friday night of adventure in the city. Although what they called adventure, most people might not agree as a particularly adventurous way to spend the beginning of a weekend. For they were speeding to Chicago not to get drunk nor to go to some crazy party but rather to talk to homeless people, to hear stories and to share their own.

Now, as they stared out the window, the trees and the towns of the suburbs began to give way to skyscrapers and city lights and then eventually to darkness. They had entered the tunnel at the end of the track. And as the stepped out into the bustling city night, a cold blast of air hit them. Buildings towering like mountains over them glimmered with the reflection of headlights as they moved along the streets which were filled with the noise of the city traffic.

Soon, they split into groups of threes and dispersed into the chilly night air hunting for the invisible of the city, the homeless. One group of three lagged behind stopping at a store to buy some food to hand out. After stocking up their provisions, they followed their companions into the maze of the busy city.

Three blocks, two turns, and one mini game of Frogger later, they found him. “Ansel.” He replied when they asked his name; he was an old homeless man sitting on an upside down bucket on the side of the street. They offered him two oranges, which he gladly excepted. And as the three young college students sat around him, he began to tell his story. “Jamaica is my home.” He said as he wrapped his tattered blanket close around him. “I came here illegally when I was young to be with my family. Now I am old, and my family is gone. I have no papers so I can not work, and I can not get any government help.” They felt like children in a library listening to a parent on a stool reading them a story. As the three students looked into his eyes as he spoke, they could see a wealth of wisdom and experience in them. He continued to speak, telling them about life on the streets and his ministry. “See these two oranges?” They nodded. “One I will eat, and one I will give away. All the homeless in this city know they can come to me and get help. I have nothing, but still I give.”

As what he said sunk into them, a deep admiration grew for Ansel within them. They looked at their own lives, bright young college students who had their whole lives ahead of them. Yet, they did not have a heart as this man did. They continued to talk to Ansel. Well, actually they did very little talking and a lot of listening. As one and then two hours passed by, they continued to sit spellbound listening to Ansel’s stories and his wisdom. They could hardly notice all the glances of the people passing quickly by wondering what these kids were doing talking to that lazy, old bumb.

All to soon it was time for the three to leave, meet up with their group, and head back to the train station. They walked away in silence reflecting on what they had just experienced. They would never forget that night nor Ansel. Yet, as they walked away, he had already become invisible again. Just another shadow on a busy street.

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The Second Exodus

Golgotha, The Place of the Skull. This dark place was where the worst of the worst went to die. It was a place of torment, pain, and humiliation. Yet, one of the most fantastic events of history happened here. Christian or not this is the place where Jesus Christ died, and that is significant. But what is significant about that? All men must die; since the beginning of time, millions have. It is significant because Christ’s death was something more. Christ’s death was a second exodus.

During the first exodus God, through Moses, led the children of Israel out of their slavery to the Egyptians into the promise land. Metaphorically, this is exactly what Christ did. Christ led the people of God not out of slavery to the Egyptians nor Rome, but rather he led the people of God out of slavery to their own sins. This is the second exodus, and so much of the cross points to that.

First, there is the darkness. Darkness came over the land for three hours right in the middle of the day before Jesus died. This supernatural darkness is a blinking light pointing us to the exodus narrative. In Egypt right before the plague of the first-born sons when all the first born sons died, a supernatural darkness came over the land of Egypt for three days. Is this all by accident: darkness over the land for three hours before God’s first born son dies and darkness over the land for three days before the Egyptians’ first born sons die? It could be, but there’s more.

Which feast was the Israelites celebrating during Christ’s crucifixion? The Passover! The very feast that reminded the nation of God’s deliverance from the Egyptians! The nation of Israel was delivered because of the blood of the sacrificial lamb slaughtered on their behalf, and Christ did the same. He saved his people through his own sacrificial blood on their behalf. He is the sacrificial lamb of the second exodus.

The implications of this are incredible. One of the hardest things to understand about the death of Christ is that when he dies, the tombs of long dead saints break open. And surprise! These dead people come back to life and tour the city (Mathew 27:52-53). But in light of this exodus, it makes since. This is a foreshadowing of what Christ’s sacrifice means for his people. The prophet Isaiah talked about a time when God would show up and judge the nations. And he says in that time, “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy (Isaiah 26:19)!” There will be a day when Christ comes back, and because of his sacrificial death when he does, his saints shall all rise again. This event is a foreshadowing of that day.

Another implication of Jesus’ death is the bridge to God. When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two. This is no ordinary curtain. This is a giant thick curtain that went from the roof of the temple to it’s floor separating the Holy of Holies (where the presence of God dwelt) from the rest of the temple where the people were permitted to go. This curtain separated God from his people. When Christ died the curtain was ripped in half. Through his death the people of God now had access into God’s presence.

Christ’s death was a second exodus. Through it he led God’s people out of slavery to their own sin. In his final moments, Jesus (who is dying of suffocation) lets out a loud cry. He should have died with a whimper from lack of air. Yet, he gives a loud cry. For his cry was not a cry of death but of victory.