We Didn't Know What Was in the Backpack

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He is our gold. He is our pure garment. He is our healing. He is our sanity. He is our wholeness.

One night, a playful couple was living it up in the nightclubs of a nearby city. They drank margaritas and danced the night away. There was laughter and unchecked excitement. As they danced, they were the center of attention and received applause and more drinks. Late into the night, a well-dressed gentleman approached them with a deal. A friend had left his backpack with the man by mistake, and the friend was now in another city. The man offered the couple six hundred dollars to drive the backpack to him.

Of course, they needed the money. Besides, they had already spent way too much at the club. With the cash, they could make up for what they’d “blown away” that night. “Let’s do it; it’s already past midnight, we live in that town anyway,” they said. They took the backpack and plunked it in the back seat of their car, and off they went. But with the margaritas working away at their neurons, the foot of the young driver on the pedal was heavier than usual, and he swerved more than he should have as he went from lane to lane passing the late-night traffic. His girlfriend cheered him on. A highway patrol was on an off-ramp monitoring traffic, and after a brief chase, pulled them over. The young driver was asked to blow into the breathalyzer, and the result showed alcohol content three times the legal limit. Following her instincts, the patrolwoman asked the couple to exit the vehicle for the required search in an alcohol stop.

She quickly spotted the backpack and asked them if they knew what was in it. They told her the story: “We’re doing a favor for a friend; we don’t know a thing.” Inside the backpack were almost 40 lbs of drugs! Cocaine, methamphetamines, ecstasy, marihuana, with a street value of $600,000.00!

Days later, the couple found themselves in the courtroom. They needed an interpreter, and I was there to translate the arraignment. They were both 20 years old. They listened as the defense attorney interviewed them before the judge called their names. “It’s quite serious,” was the attorney’s statement. “Each one of you is facing up to 30 years in jail. The charges are illegal transport and trafficking of narcotics, enhanced by the large quantity of drugs. Each drug carries its own separate charge. Can you explain to me what you were doing with that backpack? What’s going to be your defense?” Without hesitation, both answered at the same time and with the same words: “We didn’t know what was in the backpack!”

He is our gold. He is our pure garment. He is our healing. He is our sanity. He is our wholeness.

They had listened to a lie in a place where lies are the number one product for sale behind the guise of joy and laughter. Yet for the couple, everything had seemed true at the moment: the serendipitous encounter, the coincidental offer, the monetary blessing.

Such is the father of lies: fools’ gold instead of real bullions, straw instead of silver, prison instead of freedom. These offers come from the enemy of our soul, but he always camouflages the curse as a blessing and dresses up blessings as curses. And we all, in one way or another, have fallen for the decoys and slipped into his traps.

That is why the Divine Judge tells us, “Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see” (Rev 3:18). All of these riches do not come in a backpack of dubious content. Instead, they come wrapped up in one person: Jesus, the Christ.

He is our gold. He is our pure garment. He is our healing. He is our sanity. He is our wholeness. He is our integrity. He is the antidote of our addictions. He is our life and freedom. He is our righteousness before God. He is the pearl of great price that adorns our lives. All these riches in the perfect wrapping of his person are ours by grace alone, through faith alone, to his glory alone. Everything else is slavery and prison bars. But on the cross, he broke down the prison bars and cried out, ‘you are mine, you are my special possession as I take your sin upon this cross, and I will spare you as a man spares his children who serve him’ (Mal 3:17).

There are only truths; in fact, there’s only one truth, the truth that saves, sets free, and lifts the offending backpack.

In our interview with our attorney, we can only say, “Yes, we knew all along what was in the backpack. We took it from Adam, who took it from ‘the serpent who was more subtle than any other creature.’” Each generation has had the backpack handoff, adding its own junk to the mix, and joining the guilty weighed down by the chain of sin. But on the cross, Christ took the chain off our feet and nailed it to his own that we might go free into the kingdom of his life, where there are no lies. There are only truths; in fact, there’s only one truth, the truth that saves, sets free, and lifts the offending backpack. For God so loved the partying condemned world, that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him, should not be held under the power and weight of sin, but be set free. And in that freedom, they enter into the ecstatic joy of him who loved us and made us a kingdom and priests to God his Father—to him be the glory and the power forever. Amen.