Sunday Night Live Sermons
A RANSOM FOR MANY
6th April 2003
Slavery was not abolished by the American Civil War. Today slavery thrives in several parts of the world, particularly in Sudan. The Christian Churches, the Anti-Slavery Society and Human Rights Watch denounces slavery in Sudan. Today government-backed and armed militia of the Baggara tribes raid and capture Dinka children and women who then work as slaves in western Sudan. They are forced to work for free in homes, in fields, punished when they refuse, abused physically and sexually.
The Churches and Human Rights Watch has called on the government of Sudan to stamp out slavery and prosecute those responsible, including police officers who fail to assist the victims and their families who are searching for them. The government of Sudan is responsible not only of arming, transporting and assisting the slave-raiding militia, but it also is responsible for not enforcing its own laws against kidnapping, assault, and forced labour. There is no prohibition in the Sudan Criminal Code against slavery. In 2001 the government announced it would prosecute those involved in abductions and forced labor, but so far no one has been brought to trial. Since 1980, Dinka elders in Khartoum seek to retrieve women and children held in slavery by buying them out of slavery. A ransom is paid for their redemption. Families in the south pay the "owners" a ransom to free abducted relatives. Since 1995, several groups have endeavored to assist the Dinka to "redeem" or "ransom" or "purchase the freedom of" their abducted children and women. Members of our church heard a Dinka Church leader speak and we gave an offering to release such slaves into freedom.
Three thousand years ago, the Hebrew people were released from four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, the country bordering Sudan. This release from slavery was the most significant event in the history of the Hebrews. It is remembered annually by Jews everywhere in the Passover. The Passover is a picture of how Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, redeems and ransoms people of all nations from sin and death. Our first study of the Lamb of God looked at the significance of the Lamb being sacrificed. Then we considered that the Lamb was a sacrifice on our behalf, and specifically at the substitutionary atonement by the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. This week we'll examine the theme of ransom and redemption of slaves. Jesus said: "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:44-45
1. JESUS IS A RANSOM FOR MANY.
That Jesus was a ransom for many is central to the meaning of the Lord's Supper, and of His crucifixion. In the Old Testament, God hears the cry of the Israelites to deliver Israel from slavery in Egypt. Exodus 6:6 "I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment." Sometimes a kinsman paid the price of the ransom and redeemed a person from slavery. Families care for relatives. A man might marry his brother's widow if no children have yet been born, in order to raise children in the brother's name. Or a man might purchase family lands that had to be sold because of poverty or debt, to keep the land in the family.
I learnt this week that in Chinese and Indian families, cousins from the mother's side can marry to preserve the family name or property or to retain the dowry. Ownership is transferred from one to another through payment of a price. That follows into the New Testament. "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." 1 Peter 1:18-19 The keyword is "redeemed" or "ransomed". It means "to free by paying a ransom, to redeem," It was widely used in the time of Jesus of the freeing of slaves or prisoners of war. In the case of slaves, the ransom was temporarily deposited in the shrine of a god, who now owns the slaves.
The author contrasts silver and gold that are "perishable" with Christ's blood that is "precious". The theme of sacrifice is here also, since the phrase "without blemish or defect" echoes the requirement that sacrifices to God must be whole and not crippled or disabled in any way -- the principle being that we offer our best to God. The Passover lambs had to meet this requirement. New Testament writers did not invent the idea of Christ's death providing a ransom or redemption price. Jesus Himself said it: "For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28 There had been dispute among the disciples concerning which of them was the greatest. Jesus uses this to teach His great law of service and also His great act of sacrifice: "to give His life as a ransom for many".
Jesus gives clear teaching on the purpose and meaning of His death. The word He uses means a "ransom," the price paid to secure the freedom of a slave or to set free from liabilities by paying the forfeit. This is the heart of the meaning of our redemption. It was the sacrifice of Christ that enabled Paul Ephesians 1:7 to write: "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins." So Hebrews 9:12 it is shown that Christ "entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." In the Revelation of John Revelation 5:9 the song is, "You were slain, and with Your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." Paul also writes: 1 Timothy 2:5-6 "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all."
2. WE ARE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE.
Paul argued "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 This makes it clear that Christians, like slaves, have been bought, and God now owns them. "Bought" means "to secure the rights to someone by paying a price, buy, acquire as property." We are freed from an "empty way of life" 1 Peter 1:18 Jesus explained, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin." John 8:34 Paul asked incredulously of some Christians who were sliding backwards in their faith: "Now that you know God, how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?" Galatians 4:9
On another occasion he reminded the new Christians, "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy." Titus 3:3 He summed it up: "you used to be slaves to sinů But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." Romans 6:17,22
Slaves to sin. We find sin habitual and cannot escape. We identify with Paul's famous cry of despair: Romans 7 "I am made a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my body. What a wretched man I am!" Our sin separates us and estranges us from God enables Satan to deceive us. Our sin makes us hopelessly in debt to God, far beyond our ability to repay. Sin captured us in two ways: sin's addictive power entraps us in continual disobedience to God, and God's justice requires that this continual, habitual disobedience be punished. We are rightly under a sentence of judgment for our disobedience. We are in very deep, way over our heads. We need to be rescued from this plight. A Saviour, a Rescuer, a miracle is our only hope.
3. JESUS COMES TO REDEEM US.
The Bible depicts Jesus' salvation as a victorious battle with the forces of evil, personified in Satan or the devil . But Satan is not the legitimate owner of sinful people. He keeps them in darkness and holds them in his deceitful power, but he is not their legitimate owner.
Satan is a usurper and thief John 10:10 an accuser. Revelation 12:10-12 Satan loses his power, not because he has been paid off, but because we have been forgiven. We can no longer accurately be accused of sin. When we realize that truth, we are set free John 8:32 no longer hopeless and manipulated by lies. Paul puts it this way: "When you were dead in your sins and your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Colossians 2:13-15
4. HENCE, WE HAVE ATONEMENMT FOR OUR SINS.
This theme of deliverance from slavery is powerful, teaching us several things: God is our redeemer who takes responsibility for us. God loves us radically. He will not let us go. He resorts to extreme measures to restore us to Himself even to the death of His Son. Whatever it takes, God will do for us. He is committed to us. We now belong to God. What we do is not just our own business. We are God's. We are His slaves, and henceforth we voluntarily, freely, serve God out of our love.
Our ransom from the slavery of sin means we have atonement for our sins. "You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." 1 Peter 1:18-19
Our atonement was bought for us by Jesus alone. He surrenders His life and obtains liberty for us. By His death Jesus stands in the place of those who are in bondage to sin and death, and suffers in our place for us. That sets us free. The ransom atones and liberates. We are set free from guilt, but also set free from its consequences: death and judgment.
We think of "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." The Passover is a picture of how Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, redeems and ransoms people of all nations from sin and death. We considered how the Lamb of God was our sacrifice to take away our sins. Then we considered that the Lamb was a sacrifice on our behalf, in our place, a substitutionary atonement by the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Now we have considered how this Lamb of God has ransomed and redeemed us from the slavery of sin. Jesus said: "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:44-45
Abraham Lincoln once purchased a slave at a slave auction. The slave was amazed when Lincoln told him he was now free to go where he liked. He had paid the price to set him free. The slave fell at his feet in appreciation to the one who redeemed him and said, "You have redeemed me, bought my freedom, set me free. Now I will not go my own way, but I will serve you, willingly the rest of my days." That is exactly how we should respond to Jesus Christ, who paid the price and set us free. We say "Lord Jesus, Thank you for freeing me. I will serve you now all my days."