Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Cool Hand Jesus

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . . Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. ”” (John 8:31, 32, and 36)

Communication is essential in life and in relationships. The cause of conflict and misunderstandings is failure to communicate and relationships usually thrive where there is excellent communication. When traveling the expedition of this wilderness life, there must be excellent communication.

Cool Hand Luke, an all time classic movie from 1967, has one of the greatest lines ever about communication. Paul Newman, who passed away September 28th 2008, did a fantastic job with the cool character Luke who struggled to conform to the prison camp's norms. Luke found himself in all kinds of trouble. In front of the warden of the prison camp, that Luke called home, Luke was reprimanded for his non-conformity with a quote that has gone down in movie history: “What we have here is failure to communicate.” This line is often quoted and shows up in pop culture, it was even used by the 1990s hard rock band Guns and Roses in their song Civil War.

The implication of this quote from the movie and the song is that a failure to communicate causes discord and puts people out of harmony with one another. In the movie, Luke, who struggled with conformity, finds some kind of freedom and redemption after a prison escape that ends in a church, but he is caught there in the end. The little church is surrounded and Luke steps out and gives the warden’s words back to him, “What we have here is failure to communicate.” Luke is then shot and killed. The movie ends with a restored image of a free man, though “his freedom” was his ultimate death.

This failure to communicate had an enormous price tag that cost Luke life itself. The image of this rebel Luke is one of a redemptive character. He seems to give the whole prison their freedom, even at the end of the film as his “image” is restored by his fellow inmates. This restored image is that of a torn picture of Luke from an earlier escape that is put back together. The tear in the picture forms a cross when it is reassembled. We get the idea from this image that Luke’s sacrifice indeed is intended to be a picture of redemption, as Hollywood taps into the ultimate redemption story of the cross.

Mark Harvey in the NOLS Wilderness Guide says this about communicating and leadership: “Communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Good communication is also the sign of a good leader because 'good leaders are good communicators'" (Harvey 174). God, the ultimate communicator and leader, has clearly communicated His love and redemption for us through His perfect sacrifice for us. He has led us to freedom through the truth of His sacrifice. Unlike the cool hand Luke, Jesus lived a perfect life, deserving no wrong. Like Luke, however, Jesus died a rebel’s death. Jesus died our death to give us all, imprisoned by our sin, and deserving of death because of our rebellion, ultimate freedom.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, chapter 4:2-4, speaks about his own imprisonment for the sake of communicating the Gospel freedom. Paul was imprisoned, probably in Rome, around A.D. 50 or 60. Paul hopes, and asks for prayer from the Colossians to this end, that God will open doors for the telling of the liberation and redemption of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Paul hopes that even his imprisonment would communicate this good news of freedom in Jesus Christ, who suffered and died so that we would not. Paul says it this way:

“Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.”

Jesus was intentional about freeing us from our prison of sin. Jesus Himself has communicated this redemption from the cross and from His raising from the grave, defeating our sin and dieing the death we deserve. This truth, Jesus Himself, The Truth, liberates us. May we hear this communication, and may our lives, like Paul’s, communicate this truth clearly, as we follow, worship, and fall into the arms of the Cool Hand Savior.

Resting in Cool Hands,


Harvey, Mark. Wilderness Guide, The National Outdoor Leadership School, Lander, WY. 1999

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Col 4:2-4

The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Jn 8:31, 32, and 36

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