The Gospel changes lives. The fact that Jesus came, died on a cross, and rose again is more than a fairy tale, more than a nice story to tell kids at bedtime, more than simply some well-written material for Easter plays. The Gospel is everything.
The Gospel is God’s answer to every problem in our hearts and our world. Every weakness, fear, disease, cruelty, depravity, confusion, and sickness finds its answer in the Gospel. Paul called it “the power of God to salvation” in Romans 1:16.
Back here, I started a discussion of some of the ways the Bible describes what the Gospel does in our lives, beginning with the concept of adoption. If you haven’t read it, go back and take a look. It’s good stuff. 🙂
Now let’s go on to the next one.
Luke records Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, speaking of the ministry of Jesus in Luke 1:68. He proclaims, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people!”
To understand this concept of redemption, you’ve got to go into Zechariah’s world as a 1st century Jew raised on the Law and the Prophets.
The concept of redemption shows up repeatedly in the Old Testament. Over and over again, God is said to have redeemed people. He redeemed Israel from bondage in Egypt. He redeemed her from exile in Babylon. He redeemed people from death, from oppression, from violence. And in the same way, Zechariah is saying, He is coming in Jesus to redeem us from sin.
Now dig a little deeper and things get even cooler. In Leviticus 27:13, it says that if someone dedicates an item to God, consecrating it, and they later realize they want it back, they can have it, but they have to redeem it by paying what it’s worth and addding 1/5th to it, making the item theirs again, to do with as they please. God redeemed us through the cross. Though we gave ouselves up to the service of sin and darkness, God paid to redeem us through the blood of Jesus. He bought us back so we could be His again.
Alright, that’s sweet, but let’s keep going further, where things start to get really cool. In the Old Testament, each family was given land. This land was their inheritance from God, passed down through the generations, a special gift to them alone that was meant to bless them and serve as a reminder of the covenant God had made with them.
Losing this special gift from God would be a huge disgrace, not to mention the fact that survival in an agrarian society would be next to impossible without your land. So God provided a way so that, if someone was forced to sell their land due to financial hardship, when they got back on their feet, either they or a family member could come along and redeem it, buying it back and restoring it to its rightful owner. We were that abandoned plot of land, and Jesus redeemed us through His blood. He bought us back from the enemy and gave us to our rightful owner, God. We were His to begin with, and though we had sold ourselves to another, He paid to make us His again.
So what if things went really badly, so bad that you had to sell yourself into slavery to pay off your debts? Then a family member had the obligation to redeem you if they could, to pay the price for your freedom, so you wouldn’t have to be a slave any longer. Though you had ruined your life, wasted all your money, and sold yourself into slavery just to survive, a loving family member could pay for your release, and you would be free, redeemed. Jesus did this on the cross. He paid for our release from slavery, though we had willfully sold ourselves into it by our own bad choices and hatred of God.
And then there’s the concept of the kinsman redeemer. Read the book of Ruth to get a good visual of this. If a woman found herself a widow, without a husband, a home, or sons to take care of her, then the nearest of kin had the obligation to redeem her, to take her as his wife, raise up children for her dead husband, provide for her, love her, and be the husband that she used to have. It’s a weird idea to our modern minds, where women can date, find a husband on-line, get any job they want, get college degrees, and fly space shuttles, but in ancient Israel, a woman without a husband didn’t have a whole lot of options waiting for her. She had no way of finding a new husband, and if she remained single, my guess is she’d have to either find some friends or relatives to mooch off of or resort to begging, slavery, or prostitution to survive. The kinsman redeemer was there to spare her from that life and to make sure she could have as normal a life as possible.
Redemption. It’s the idea of restoring something back to the way it should have been all along, before things went bad, whatever the costs may be. Jesus redeemed us. Though the cost was astronomical, He bought us out of slavery, He paid for us to be His again, He became our kinsman redeemer who gave us everything so we didn’t have to be at the mercy of fate and enemies much bigger and stronger than us.
This is the power of the Gospel, that when we were worthless and lost, without family, land, or even our own freedom, Jesus came and redeemed us with His blood. We were like the Prodigal Son, we had wasted all our money, sold ourselves into slavery, and we deserved the hard life and judgment of sin we were under, yet God, through Jesus, redeemed us. He paid to make us His again. He redeemed us from our slavery and set us free.