For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Years ago, Mel Gibson played the lead role in a Ron Howard action-thriller film titled Ransom. If you’re searching for possible movies to watch while you’re enduring this exile season, maybe you can find this one. It’s a bit intense, so you’ll want to make sure small kids are in bed before you get it started.
Gibson played the role of Tom Mullen – a hard driving businessman who owns an airline and has become very wealthy. Seeking a cut of Mullen’s wealth, criminals kidnap his young son and demand a 2 million-dollar ransom. Mullen agrees to pay, but somehow things go wrong. The plot of the movie takes a twist when a vengeful Tom Mullen goes on national TV and places the 2 million in cash on a table and offers it as a bounty on the heads of the kidnappers. The payment will go to anyone who captures the captors.
Needless to say, that’s a risky move (and keep in mind this isn’t a movie about best parenting styles).
What’s interesting is that this plot twist shifted Gibson’s character from being the guy making a payment to being the guy in pursuit. He wants his son back, but he wants something more. He wants his enemies hunted down and defeated.
Jesus, in giving himself as a ransom for many, did both of things as well. He secured our freedom and he defeated our adversary.
Payment and Pursuit
Jesus’ statement in Mark 10:45 is one of the most concise statements in the New Testament about why Jesus came. It isn’t a verse we typically hear during Advent or at the Christmas Eve service – but it summarizes the incarnation. This is why Jesus came to live among us. He came to serve. He came to give himself as the price for our freedom.
And in doing this he defeated death. Jesus, in one of his own short parables, described it as plundering the strongman’s house (Mark 3:27). In one of his letters the apostle John explained, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8).
Yes, Jesus conquered the captor. But today I’d like to linger with the idea of ransom. Jesus gave himself as a ransom for many. Webster’s dictionary says that ransom is “The redeeming or release of a captive by the payment of money or some other demand.” In going to the cross and rising from the dead, Jesus paid the price to secure our freedom.
The troubling part of this is that many of us who believe this, or think we believe it, don’t truly live as free people.
These days all of us are confined. We’re staying home all the time. Those who work are doing so cautiously. Our lives have been reduced to a fraction of what they were. Confined though we may be, we need not live these days as captives.
Jesus has paid the ransom and secured our freedom. Here’s what that looks like in this time of exile.
You need not be captive to fear. Fear is rampant these days. We’re afraid of a virus we can’t see and people we can. Our fears are not baseless. These are serious and dangerous days. But fear will not be our captor, stealing peace and hope. Jesus intends to give us his peace, a peace the word around cannot give. He sets us free from fear.
You need not be captive to a future you can’t control. This is closely related to fear. It’s the kind of bondage that paralyzes us with ‘what next’ and ‘what if.’ Your future can be trusted to his hands – no matter what it brings. Don’t miss the blessings of this day living in a day you have not yet received. Jesus paid a price to set you free from that.
You need not be captive to the world’s comforts. God gives us all good things for our enjoyment, and he intends that receive them with thanksgiving. But now much has been taken – going out to dinner, going to concerts or movies or sporting events, gathering with friends. We won’t place our sense of joy in God’s gifts. Our joy rests with God. What we’ve lost in these days need not make depressed or bitter. We’ve been set free from that.
You need not be captive to your own self – guarded and defensive, grasping and clutching (again, all forms of fear). We can turn outward, toward others, toward our neighbor. Pay attention to what’s happening in the lives of those around you. Jesus lived that way, and he made it possible for us to live that way too.
Don’t allow your confinement to be captivity. Jesus has paid the ransom for your freedom.
Is there something specific today that feels like captivity for you? Name what it is – and hand it over to Jesus Live in the freedom that Jesus intends for you to have.
We give you thanks, O God, for the price you paid for our freedom in the life of your Son. We ask your forgiveness for the ways we live as captives – to fear or the future or the lesser things of this world. By your Spirit, empower us to live in the freedom you offer, greeting each day with gratitude and confidence through Jesus our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.