Have you ever felt trapped by sinful habits in your life? Do have areas of sin that you just can’t seem to break free from? Do you sometimes feel like your sins are walling you away from the light of Christ? Recently I took the time to re-read the literary classic by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado.” I would have never dreamed while in High School that when Sister Mary Delphine, my English teacher, had us read this story, that many years later I would be using it to make a point about the destructive nature of sin and the saving love of Jesus Christ. This time the story took on a whole new meaning for me.
If you have not read this story in many years or have never read it and would like to (it’s short and free) click here. You might know the story but did you know that you and I could be characters in the story? Read on.
The story is set in a nameless Italian city in an unspecified year and is about the narrator’s deadly revenge on a friend whom he believes has insulted him. Like several of Poe’s stories, and in keeping with the 19th-century fascination with the subject, the narrative revolves around a person being buried alive-in this case, by immurement.
What is Immurement? Immurement (from Latin im- “in” and murus “wall”; literally “walling in”) is a form of imprisonment, usually for life, in which a person is locked within an enclosed space and all possible exits turned into impassable walls. When used as a means of execution, the prisoner is simply left to die from starvation or dehydration. This isdifferent from being buried alive, in which the victim typically dies of asphyxiation.
As we all know, at times our sinful habits can become for us a form of immurement. Satan can use our sins to wall us in from the life giving light of Jesus Christ. If we can’t break free from the bondage of our sinful ways our sins can starve and dehydrate our souls.
Allow me to walk you through a quick review of the story and to make a comparison as to how Satan works in our life to wall us in with sin.
In this story Montresor is the vile narrator. He is cold, merciless, brutal, conniving, and vengeful. He doesn’t mind telling us about his torture and murder about to befall Fortunado.
Fortunado is exploited by Montresor who uses his weakness for fine wines, in this case Amontillado, to lure him into the dark catacombs. Several times Montresor plays upon Fortunado’ s pride by suggesting that he allow someone else, Luchesi, to be the one to sample this fine wine. Each time filled with pride and ego Fortunado insults Luchesi’s knowledge of fine wines and they press on deeper into the darkness.
Montresor plays out his scheme when no one else is around. He cunninglyappears to be concerned for Fortunado’s health all the while luring him onto his death. As they walk deeper into the darkness of the catacombs, Montresor continues to give Fortunado more Medoc wine until he is drunk. I find it interesting that they walk past human remains as Montresor lures Fortunado towards his final demise.
Finally, they have arrived at a small niche with granite walls, the air is foul, and the light is dim. Quickly Montresor chains Fortunado to the back wall and brick by brick he begins to wall up the opening. By midnight only one brick remains before Fortunado is walled into his death.
Now let’s replace Montresor’s character in the story with Satan and Fortunado with you and me. It is through the same careful manipulation, that Satan draws us in. Our sins are our weakness or our Amontillado. Drunk on our habitual sinning we slowly become trapped. Our pride and shame prevent us from true repentance and from seeking help to overcome our weakness.
In our lives Satan uses disguises, lies, and manipulation to lead us down into darkness. We are often weakest when no one is around. We have long heard the expression an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. There are frequently signs along the way, like the bones in the story, to tell us to stop and turn back from our sins. But the allure of the sin is great and we often ignore the call to repent. Sooner or later our sins can chain us in. Satan closes in on the destruction of our soul one brick at a time or said differently one sin at a time until the bricks of our sins wall out the light of Christ.
Like all of Poe’s writings this story is dark, and this one ends in death. Will Satan win in the end in the story of our life? Will we be immured by our sins?
Sin and shame can wall us in and cut us off from the life, light, love and mercy of Jesus. But our story does not need to end in death like Poe’s Fortunado. Unlike Poe’s character, we truly are “fortunate”. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to save us from sin. He came for the lost and He wants to set us free to a life of joy. Jesus Himself was walled in by a tomb, but He broke the chains of death to set us free. Since He broke the chains of death we know He can break whatever chains bind us. Let’s look at the Good News:
“Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
“For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death.”
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free”
“But this I will call to mind; therefore I will hope: TheLord’s acts ofmercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; they are renewed each morning – great is yourfaithfulness! The Lord is my portion,I tell myself, therefore I will hope in him.”
So my friends if today you find yourself in a difficult struggle against sinful behavior. If it seems as if Satan is about to put the last stone in place to cause your spiritual death and block out the light of Christ, get down on your knees and call on our Lord. Jesus came for the lost. He came to set sinners free. Jesus is here for you. So are your fellow Christian brothers and sisters who care for you. Call out for help. Seek forgiveness. Remember there will be great rejoicing in Heaven when one who was lost is found.
Also I encourage you if you know someone else who is struggling with something difficult to overcome and/or habitual sin in their lives, create a safe, loving, and non-judgmental atmosphere for them to admit their failures and seek forgiveness and to find the love of Christ through your caring response to them.
Lord God, Heavenly Father, you know the nature of our sinful ways. You know the sins I struggle against each day. Your son has won the battle against the great deceiver through his death and resurrection. Through the blood of his cross wash me clean of my sinful ways. Today, Father please allow the light of your son to shine through the wall of my sin and free me from the chains that bind me, and in turn help me to bring your saving light to others, amen!