By Pastor Tom Davidson
It was almost 1:00 a.m. in the morning when the phone rang. Dr. Leo Winters, the highly acclaimed Chicago surgeon, was abruptly awakened. There had been an accident and his skilled hands were needed for immediate surgery. The quickest route happened to be through a rather tough area, but with time being a critical factor, it was worth the risk. At one of the stoplights his door was yanked open by a man with a gray hat and a dirty flannel shirt. “I’ve got to have your car!” the man screamed, pulling him from his seat. Winters tried to explain the gravity of the situation, but the man wouldn’t listen. When the doctor was finally able to get a taxi to the hospital over an hour had elapsed and it was too late as the patient had passed away 30 minutes earlier. The nurse told him that the father of the victim had gone to the chapel wondering why the doctor never came. Dr. Winters walked hurriedly to get to the chapel and when he entered he saw the father… he was wearing a gray hat and dirty flannel shirt. Tragically, he had pushed from his life the one who could save his son.
Likewise, scores of people push from their lives the very one that can save them from the penalty and the power of their sin. Countless numbers turn away from the One who can save them from their emptiness, confusion, hopelessness, and enslavement to sinful ways. They’re too busy for the One who can deliver them from a meaningless life. They can’t seem to find time for the One who can redeem their lives. It’s so sad and so tragic because things could be different for so many if they could only find time for the Lord Jesus Christ who came to earth to save us. Christ is the Savior we all desperately need. Christ Jesus came in to the world to save sinners.
Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” The idea is that by pouring out his blood for us, Christ made it possible for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be “bought back” from our slavery to sin. Why blood? It was considered the essence of life – the emphasis of the phrase is on Jesus’ total sacrifice – the giving of his entire life – and the cost of that sacrifice. And it’s through this blood of Christ that we have redemption. The idea of “redemption” is a bit of a stretch for us to really understand today. It’s the idea of being set free, of being bought back out of slavery or prison, and restored. Many of us have absolutely no idea what it means to be enslaved – to be stripped of any personal rights, dignity, or freedom. To become property of another – no longer human but merely a thing to be used, abused, or neglected entirely at the whim of someone else who “owns” you. We can’t imagine what it means to literally have shackles on our ankles, which limit our ability to move farther than the short chain might allow. We’ve heard about slavery, but in general it’s probably so far removed from our own experience that it’s difficult for us to grasp the complete helplessness and despair. To know that there’s not a single thing we can do for ourselves to change our situation.
I remember hearing a story on the news years ago, about a teenage girl who had been found in chains, in the basement of her parent’s home. The girl had been born severely retarded, and her parents had been ashamed. So they had moved to a new community where they weren’t known, moved into their house during the night, placed this infant in the basement, and kept her there. When the girl was discovered due to the suspicions of a neighbor who had heard a sort of mewling cry during the night, she was naked, her hair looked as though a comb had never been through it, she was emaciated for lack of nutritious food, her skin was bleached white from never seeing sunlight, and a portion of the floor in one corner was her bathroom. She had never learned to talk, she had never known love or affection from her own parents – she didn’t even know what the upstairs portion of her home looked like as she had never been out of the basement.
But if you can imagine what it means to be enslaved – if you can sense a bit of the horror and helplessness – then we can start to understand what redemption is. It’s the idea of someone, in this case a perfect stranger, appearing out of nowhere and paying the debt, assuming the responsibility, in fact exchanging places with you and I in the shackles. Being redeemed means that someone from the outside has come to us in our helplessness and set us free.
That’s the essence of the cross of Christ. Because of our sin, we were enslaved. We were trapped. We were helpless without dignity, without humanity, and without hope. And then there was God. And you know, the Gospel – the good news – is as simple as that: we were lost, but God… And so Jesus came to rescue us. He came to liberate us. He came to set us free. He redeemed us – buying us back from the slavery to sin and enabling us to be free to be in relationship with God.
So I need to ask you – are you free? Have the shackles fallen, have you accepted the liberty offered you, have you ran as fast as possible from the place where you were trapped?