In 1920, the world famous escape artist Harry Houdini made this amazing boast to the world’s press “Nothing can hold me captive against my will!” What a massive statement that is when human life seems to be defined by a relentless quest for personal freedom. Something most people never seem to find. Jesus encountered so many individuals who were in chains and straitjackets. Not necessarily the ones that people could see but unbreakable restraints nevertheless that held them captive against their will. Chains of rejection and sickness, straitjackets of poverty and hopelessness. To those people Jesus said “If the Son of God sets you free, then you’ll be really free”
Harry Houdini was born into a deprived immigrant family in America. A world away from the global superstardom he later experienced thanks to his mesmerising ability for getting out of seemingly impossible restraints. At one point he was pulling in $100 a performance, about the price of an average house in America at the time. Now Houdini was in London grabbing the attention of the British public with a high profile escape from the cells of Scotland Yard. The daredevil escapologist publicly offered money to anyone who could supply a security device that he couldn’t overcome. Master Locksmith, William Fenton was right up for the challenge and dug out an old lock that had been made by his great grandfather back in 1750.
The Fenton Lock was effectively three locks in one. The first chamber is protected by wards or projections around the inside of the keyhole. Only a key with the right slots can make it past the wards and on into the next chamber. The key moves straight through the second chamber to the third. Here it must be rotated a quarter of a turnbefore being pulled back into the second chamber containing a tumbler, a kind of lever that fits into a slot in the bolt. The key must lift the lever just high enough to allow the bolt to be released opening the lock. William Fenton knew that only the original master key could open the lock. Houdini was the expert on locks but whenever he came across a new device he would buy two of them. One to dismantle and study and the other to practise on. Offered something unique like the Fenton Lock, he was understandably cautious.
And so, the Master Escape Artist asked the Master Locksmith permission to take off the back plate to examine the working parts. William Fenton turned down Harry Houdini's request and in turn the challenge was declined. The great man wouldn’t touch it, later describing it as the finest lock he had ever seen. Jesus was all about opening locks too but a different kind of lock and for a different kind of purpose. For those trapped in prisons of hopelessness he set them free and for others he seemed able to unlock the riches of God’s love. Here’s what the great preacher Charles Spurgeon said “Jesus Christ has the master key to the chambers of God. There is no treasure house that will not open its contents to the person who follows him” Maybe your life is like the Fenton Lock, a complex set of challenges, obstacles and problems. Maybe you find yourself constantly trying to find the key to life. Jesus still opens locks in people’s lives.