Summary: FCF: Jesus hears us and save us, because he is willing to get involved. We can too. This sermon primarily relates the story of the Amistad a ship of slaves who were set free, but only after the intervention of a powerful advocate – a former president o
It was early in the year 1839 when Joseph Cinque was captured and sold into slavery. It was, of course, illegal in 1839 to transport slaves from Africa, and had been for nearly 20 years, but slave ships were still often able to leave Sierra Leone under cover of darkness and make it to the Caribbean and the United States. Like so many before him, he was chained to his neighbor and forced to make the three-month “Middle Passage,” with only an above average chance of even surviving.
In June, Cinque’s ship made it to Havana, where he was sold and destined for the eastern part of Cuba. Along with 54 other slaves, he boarded the ship Amistad, and they set off for their final destination. But a few days into the voyage, something different happened. Cinque was able to rally the other slaves on board. They revolted. They killed most of the crew. Only the two slave owners Montes and Ruiz and a few incidental crew were left alive. You see, none of the Africans knew how to sail a ship, let alone get it back to Africa. So they made a deal with their captors. Head east, and we’ll let you live.
But freedom from the slavery imposed by bad man is not always so easy to obtain. By day, the now-captive crew complied with orders. After all, everybody knew where the sun rose was where home was. But at night, they would backtrack and sail north, hoping to reach the United States – the United States where owning slaves was still legal, and where a fugitive slave could be returned.
For nearly two months this charade continued, until at last, on August 25th, running low on food and water – the Amistad had no choice but to pull near towards New York, in order to take on supplies. Within sight of the harbor, two greedy sailors commandeered the ship and sailed it into the harbor at New Haven, CT, whereupon they demanded what is called ‘right of salvage.’ In other words, they said, ‘we found this ship and we saved it. We want to sell it for all its worth and keep the money.’ And selling it for all its worth meant selling Joseph Cinque and every other black man on board back into slavery once more.
These are the beginning details of a case that lasted more than 3 years. In time, this case would threaten to break the North from the South, Spain from the U.S., and man from man. Freedom never comes easy, it rarely comes quickly, and it doesn’t always come from the actions you think it might.
This morning, as we continue our series “My Deliverer is Coming,” I want to pause and ponder a few words from Exodus. Last week, we saw what it meant to choose slavery – to willingly enter into bondage, because of simple needs and no options.
In our daily lives, we enter into slavery regularly. We choose options that leave us without a choice. At heart, that’s what slavery is – a lack of choice. Whether its addictions or hatred or any sin that compels us to do that which we would not want, sin is a slavery that sneaks in like a snake, and bites where it hurts us most.
When it strikes, we’re powerless. We are stuck. We have no options. And I don’t know about you, but that’s not where I want to be.
But here’s the good news. We have a Deliverer who wants us to be free. We have an advocate – someone who will stand up for us and demand our freedom. We don’t have to be slaves forever. There is always an option. But the Deliverer has to get involved. If I may continue …
The Africans on the Amistad were in a bind. Legally, the fundamental question was this: Were these escaped slaves who had killed the crew, or men who had engaged in legitimate self-defense to protect what freedoms they had. That question was not going to be solved quickly.
As soon as the newspapers got hold of the story, you can imagine what happened next. A vast assortment of people gathered around these Africans. Some just tried to make money by ‘exhibiting them’ for half a quarter a pop. Others sought to free them by any means possible. And, by the grace of God, some even simply attended to their basic needs, giving them food, water, and Bibles. Indeed, several of the men became Christians throughout this ordeal. But their legal freedoms were still in doubt.
The first draw seemed ominous. The judge to hear the case was an anti-Black judge by the name of Andrew Judson. He had made a name for himself prosecuting those who tried to teach blacks how to read and write. He was certainly not the judge the Africans would have wanted.