Set free from the inside out
Facing death, Andrew Chan knew the sure hope of eternal life.
The news came through on Wednesday that Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran had been executed.
It was the final chapter in a decade-long story that began with the arrest of the 'Bali 9' – a group of young Australians attempting to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin from Indonesia to Australia. Chan and Sukumaran were the ringleaders. At the trial ten years ago, the two men reportedly showed no remorse, even though the Indonesian judges suggested that over 8000 people could be killed by the amount of heroin they smuggled.
There is a lot that could be – and has been – said about this case. But, no matter what you believe about the death penalty, the Indonesian justice system, or the war on drug smuggling, something amazing seems to have happened to these two “bad men”.
A radical change
We have grown cynical about “jailhouse conversions”; often suspecting that people “find God” so they get a lighter sentence. And while that certainly happens, in Andrew Chan’s case he seems to have found the real thing.
In Kerobokan prison, Chan was given a Bible, and as he read it he began to experience the presence of God. At first he was hoping that God would get him out of prison. But after his sentencing hearing when the death penalty was handed down, he said this:
When I got back to my cell, I said, ‘God, I asked you to set me free, not kill me.’ God spoke to me and said, ‘Andrew, I have set you free from the inside out, I have given you life!’ From that moment on I haven’t stopped worshipping Him. I had never sung before, never led worship, until Jesus set me free.
The “bad man” discovered the Good God. Andrew Chan realised that - as Paul the Apostle said - “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim 1:15). He accepted that Jesus died for his sins, and God set him free on the inside, even while Chan remained in Kerobokan prison.
When they stood before the firing squad, the prisoners reportedly sang Amazing Grace. It seems fitting that the converted drug smuggler (Chan) would sing the words written by the converted slave ship captain (John Newton) about the amazing grace of God upon repentant sinners. As someone who witnessed the executions said, “This was the first time I witnessed someone so excited to meet their God.”
Back in Australia, several ministers I know quoted Jesus’ words:
I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die. (John 11:25)
Nobody is too far from God’s grace and forgiveness and eternal life. Even convicted drug smugglers. Even ordinary citizens like you and me. Has Jesus set you free, too?