During this season of lent we are thinking about the Cross. The death of Jesus which lies at the very centre of Christian faith.
The scriptures preach to us the multifaceted achievements of the cross. The death of Jesus rescues us from judgement, removes our shame, reconciles us to God.
and - what we’re thinking about today - The cross Redeems you
To redeem is to purchase something or more accurately to buy something back. It’s the language of the pawn shop where I redeem my property - i pay to get it back.
Or it’s the language of ransoming a hostage or liberating a captive slave. Purchasing freedom.
The cross of redemption tells you what you are really worth. what you are worth to God.
The question of worth is critical to us. Tough calculations are being made about peoples’ worth every day, whether cynically or with heavy hearts. Company directors must do this as they plan for the future with the constant risk of treating employees as mere resources or even economic liabilities. Military leaders face similar issues. How do you value the life of one man caught behind enemy lives? Was saving private ryan a price worth paying?
For most of the time however it is the sense of our own worth that most concerns us. who am I? am i worth anything at all. does it matter what i do? does it matter if i hurt myself or others?
What am I worth?
The cross of redemption tells you what you are really worth, bestows a value upon you that can transform you.. sets you free
Redemption in the Bible has several key ideas which we’ll look at in turn
- 1. Enslavement. being held captive.
- 2. Redemption. A price paid.
- 3. Possession - being bought back, restored to an owner.
So let’s look at each of these in turn beginning with slavery, captivity
YOU WERE ENSLAVED
The central historical event in the OT part of the bible, in the history of God’s people, the Jews was the Exodus from Egypt. God’s people were in Egypt from the time of Jacob and Joseph when they were a large extended family enjoying the favour of their Egyptian hosts. But over the years the family has grown into a small nation. And this growing immigrant people become a threat to the new Pharoah. He begins to persecute and oppress them with ever increasing cruelty. Persecution becomes slavery and slavery leads to death. Pharoah slaughters the Hebrew firstborn. And the people cry out to God.
Slavery is an awful thing isn’t it?
Steve McQueen’s brutal depiction in his film adaptation 12 years a slave depicts the inhuman cruelty of slave owners on the plantations. Modern slavery is a tragic reality.
The Bible condemns all slavery and also uses the slavery of the Exodus as an illustration of a deep and universal enslavement. A Spiritual slavery.
We love to think that we’re free. Freedom is one of the highest values in our culture. ‘It’s my life. I do what i like. Nobody should tell me what to do. especially God. Well, we’ve got rid of God now - we’re free.’
But here’s what the Bible says. Human beings are made to worship. We all seek our significance, satisfaction, security beyond ourselves because we’re creatures made by and for God. When we stop depending on God for those things that we need we don’t cease to be worshippers - no we must find other ‘gods’ beyond ourselves from which to derive security and significance.. and so we make good things like work, or relationships or pleasure into ultimate things. good desires become overblown and sinful and destructive. we devote the worship of our time and energy and dreams and expectations to things that can never fully deliver and so we become enslaved.
Jesus said, ‘anyone who sins is a slave to sin’ anyone who rejects the rule of God becomes a slave to a different master.
sometimes this slavery to sin is very evident where the raging thirst and the empty promises of a false god leads us into patterns of addiction. our sinful desires control us, master us…in destructive ways.
but often slavery can have an almost respectable facade but we are nonetheless slaves.. he works so hard, she’s devoted to her family, he’s living the dream..
There’s no way out of slavery.. our fallen nature means that our desires are boundaried and desiring God is not within our ability.
And furthermore slavery leads to death. It’s the Law.. The law of sin and death. God’s Law. That if you sin you must die. It’s unavoidable. We’re Enslaved.
We desperately desperately need a redeemer!
We need a redemption
2. To be Redeemed.
Let’s go back to ancient Egypt and the Exodus.
Pharoah the slave master was killing first born sons. But one Israelite child is hidden and survives..
Moses … drawn out of the bullrushes ..by Pharaoh’s daughter no less. Brought up in the palace
becomes God’s instrument of redemption.
God speaks to Moses at the burning bush and says ‘I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians’ In the reading we had from Exodus 6 God speaks about redeeming with his mighty hand, with an outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgement..
The sense is that God is going to expend a huge ransom price to redeem his precious people..
He overcomes the will of Pharoah through 10 plagues. The last plague - the angel of judgement will pass through Egypt bringing death! But families can be spared if they instead kill a lamb and paint it’s blood on their front door. Death will see the blood and passover.
The last plague breaks Pharoah’s will. The slaves pour out of Egypt until they come to the barrier of the Red sea and it seems that all is lost. Pharoah sends his death squads in pursuit. The slaves backed into a corner ..But God turns the tables. Opening the sea for his redeemed people and closing it on his enemies.
Rescued, Liberated, Redeemed.
And again it’s a picture, a trailer, a foretaste of THE great redemption from spiritual slavery and death that would be won by Jesus. Jesus - The lamb who was slain. Jesus - The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus had seen our slavery and heard our cries and He came down, not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus of Nazareth, in his powerful ministry confronts sin and evil and the demonic and death at every turn and he overcomes it. He heals, he drives out demons he raises the dead. Jesus, leading people out of the slavery of sin and death until he comes to the barrier of the cross - Betrayed and deserted, stitched up for a crime he didn’t commit. A cowardly governor gives in to the baying mob. Jesus is sentenced and strung up. All is lost it seems. Evil has won. Sin gets it’s death.
If you’ve ever read CS Lewis’ the lion the witch and the wardrobe you’ll know the scene where Aslan, the lion is tethered with ropes to the stone table and all the evil and hideous creatures dare to come close and they mock him and spit on him and shave off his mane and when the white witch plunges her cruel knife into Aslan’s good heart, they shriek in celebration. Sin longs to kill God.
But the stone table breaks.
At the cross - Sin does not Kill God. God kills sin. God defeats his enemies. The only real power sin has is the Law. The law of sin and death. God’s law that says if you sin you must die. That’s the captivity the chains, the enslavement.
I sin and my spiritual enemies come to God and say Giles must die. It’s the law, your law.
But what if God says - there has been a death. I died for him. What if Jesus - who is not under the law of sin and death because he never sinned. What if he, the lamb, shed his blood for me and for you? Then death must passover me and passover you. It’s not just for a penalty to be exacted twice. What if, united to Jesus by faith, by simple trust I can say, I have already died well then the law of sin and death no longer stands against me. Sin no longer has any power over me. Is no longer my master.
See this is really important.
When someone pays the great price to liberate you from slavery. You now belong to them. They’ve paid for you. Purchased your life at great cost. They own you now.
Hear it in the passage we had read. God says to Israel:
I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people and I will be your God.
Now you might say well that doesn’t sound much like being liberated! It sounds like just moving from one kind of slavery to another kind. From one master to another. And i guess you’d be right. But human freedom is not about escaping authority it’s about choosing the right authority. We are worshippers, we always look to something beyond ourselved to provide our significance and satisfaction and security. We’re always crowning something as ‘God’ in our lives. True freedom comes with being bought back into the possession of the true, living, loving God. The God who would shed his own blood to make you his.
It’s a bit like liberating a fish from a polluted lake. You catch the fish and bring it wriggling to the side. But rescued into the fresh air and freedom of a world to explore is not actually liberation to the fish. Put the fish back into the boundaries of a pure flowing river and it finds it’s true freedom.
In the same way we were made to live under the authority and rule and lordship of God. to be bought back and possessed by God is our perfect freedom.
A freedom that we are to enjoy now..
There’s a famous book written by a man called Frederick Douglass in 1845 entitled Narrative of the life of an american slave. Douglass had been a slave on the plantations and now he was a freeman. But one of the most interesting things Douglas described was how difficult it was to live free even though he was now free. He struggled to shake off the habits of slavery.
Sin is very powerful - until you come to Christ the redeemer you are powerless. But if you’ve been redeemed by Christ then sin is no longer your master. Jesus is. There is real power to be free. It’s not easy. It took a moment to get the Israelites out of Egypt, it took a lifetime to get Egypt out of the Israelites. A lifetime for them to begin to learn to trust God.
Listen to Paul in Romans 6
v12 do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law (anymore), but under grace.
what is that breaks the power of cancelled sin?
come to the cross, come to the cross where Jesus is paying the price to ransom you. to liberate you from slavery. see that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed but with the precious blood of Christ.
see how much you are worth to God. You have been bought at such a price! see how he treasures you as his own precious possession. not a slave but an adopted child.
come to the cross and bring your broken sense of worth - perhaps an emptiness that you seek to fill in enslaving ways. leave that at the cross and receive God’s true verdict. how much you are valued. Let that love fill you and set you free - to live for him.