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Nov 23, 2019 178 0 Sean Booth
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When Jesus Came into my Cell

In June 2013 I was accused of a crime I did not commit. I was arrested, charged, taken to court and remanded in H.M.P. Manchester (Strangeways prison) for six and a half months to await trial.

Roots of Faith

I was born in Manchester, England, UK. I was baptized into the Catholic Church at six weeks of age. As a child, I was very active and loved sports. I took part in amateur boxing and even had trials for Manchester City F.C. Growing up I attended Catholic mass often with my mother. As the priest lifted the Eucharistic host and said, “This is My body” (Luke 22:19), I believed something mystical and supernatural was happening. I just did not quite understand what it was. Afterward, while walking out of mass I would think of the readings from the gospel and have lots of questions about Jesus floating around in my head. I can remember that I also loved to watch old religious films.

Sadly, as with many young adults growing up in the west I was introduced to the party lifestyle at a young age. By 13 or 14 I was drinking alcohol on the streets, had smoked cannabis and had lost my virginity. I left school at 16 and, following in my father’s footsteps, went into the construction industry, eventually becoming a bricklayer. At this time I was introduced to harder drugs, including cocaine and ecstasy, and I even tried crack cocaine a few times.

On a Trip to Hell

I was living for the weekend, drinking in pubs and getting into fights. I was arrested a few times. Even through these times I attended Mass now and again, often hungover from drinking and drugs the preceding night. I felt drawn to attend. If somebody had asked me about my faith back then I would surely have said I was a good Catholic and probably would have believed I was going to heaven. In reality, I was on a one-way trip to hell. I remember a night out, drinking a pint of Guinness, looking into the pint glass and saying to myself “There has to be more to life than this!!!”

Instead of putting the beer down and trying to find out what that “more” was I continued drinking with my friends and thought nothing else of it. However, this came to a crashing end in 2012. My best friend from childhood shot and killed four people. Two of the four bodies were blown to pieces by hand grenades, the first time on British soil these weapons had been used in a civilian crime. Two of the victims were police women. My friend had gone so far to the dark side that he was overcome with evil. Sin blinds us. An investigation got under way for the capture of my friend, which led to two others and me being arrested—innocent of the crime of which we were accused.

Prison was a place I never thought I would find myself. The truth was I was a prisoner before I entered—a prisoner to sin, to the world, to my own selfishness, to the enemy, to the devil.

After about six days in prison I was spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and even physically finished. I collected my food tray from the bottom landing and climbed the stairs. I have no idea how I made it up those stairs but as I made it into the cell the guard slammed the big metal door shut behind me! BANG! He locked the door with the keys and I dropped to my knees. I looked back at everything I had been blessed with in my life—so many blessings! I then looked at my many, many sins—cheating, fighting, stealing, telling lies and taking drugs.

A flash of Blinding Light

As I went through the sins of my life, they seemed to play out one by one in my mind, like a movie. I came to see that I had broken every one of the Ten Commandments, including murder as I had taken part in an abortion. In this moment—crying, broken and alone on my knees in prison—I said internally “I can’t be forgiven.” Instantly a flash of blinding light came into my eyes and, clearer than I have ever seen, I saw Jesus Christ on the cross. I could see the sky lit behind Him, filled with magnificent colors, like electricity. I could see the crown of thorns dug into His bleeding head. He then turned to me and I could see the pain, the bruising, the bleeding, the sweat, the tears, but I could also see His eyes, so beautiful and so full of love. Jesus spoke the words directly to me: “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). A tsunami of grace engulfed me. I was overcome with a complete sense of love, mercy, forgiveness, joy, peace, wonder, awe, strength and power.

I knew Jesus was forgiving the sins of the entire world (past, present and future) but in that moment I knew instantly that Jesus had died for me and forgave me personally! He died to save me! I knew Him then and there as my Savior. I had no idea where this had come from but I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I truly understand Saint Paul when he says, “God’s love has been poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit who has been given to me” (Romans 5:5). I had been totally set free; “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). For the first time the Cross made sense and so many things clicked for me—the good thief (Luke 23:39-43), the Resurrection and so much more. I knew then that my life had been changed forever. My eyes and heart had been truly opened. As I continued kneeling, I became aware again of the presence of Jesus in my cell. He was no longer on the cross; He was risen. He was there in dazzling white, leaning over me. I knew the message He was saying to me was “I am here, I have always been here and always will be.”

Knowing Him

Within six months of this encounter all three of us were found unanimously “not guilty” in the trial. Within six months of that verdict I was volunteering in India, serving the “poorest of the poor” in Calcutta with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. I was helping care for physically and mentally disabled children and sick and dying men.

I have encountered Jesus so many times, in so many different ways. My life now makes sense. I knowingly walk with Jesus every single second of every single day and He fulfills my every desire and need. I have somebody who fights my battles. I can say now with confidence like Saint Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I that lives but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Only with Jesus does my life make sense. There was always something missing. I was looking in all the wrong places. There was always something lacking without knowing Jesus. He tells us He came so that we may “have life and have it in all its fullness” (John 10:10)—the abundant life. This free gift is an offer for every person ever born. We have a God who walked as one of us, who can relate to us in every way and promises to be with us “always, even until the end of time” (Matthew 28:20). He is “Emmanuel”—”God with us.” Jesus is “The Good Shepherd” who does not rest until He brings home “the lost sheep” (Luke 15:1-7). In my case it was only when I realized that I was so lost that I could be truly found and brought back into the loving arms of the Father, like the “Prodigal son” (Luke 15:11-32). I am now on the road that leads to experiencing life to the fullest.

“God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not be lost but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Have you experienced the love of God?
Have you encountered Jesus Christ personally?
Jesus tells us to “Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). To repent we must recognize ourselves as sinners then ask for the grace to turn away from our sinful ways. In turning away we can be open to receive the free gift of faith—belief in Jesus. Jesus promises us He will come to us. He will come into every one of our lives if we allow Him to. He says, “I stand at the door and knock; If you hear my voice and open the door, I will eat with you and you will eat with Me” (Revelation 3:20). The door where He is knocking is your heart. He will not force His way in though. It is an invitation.

Have you let Jesus in?
If not, will you?
He is waiting …

Prayer: Lord, I am sorry for all the times I chose to go my own way and turned my back on You and what I know is right. I am sorry for my many sins (mention them if you can). I ask you to please forgive me of these sins and help me to turn away from them now. I ask You, Jesus, to come into my life and be with me forever. Please fill me with Your Holy Spirit.

I pray this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sean Booth

Sean Booth is a Lay Missionary of Charity and has just begun studying a Bachelor of Divinity theology degree at Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England, UK. He shares his incredible encounter with Jesus through the Shalom World TV program “Jesus My Savior”. To watch the amazing story. visit: https://shalomworld.org/episode/a-prisoner-finds-jesus-seanbooth.

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