Part I of our series on Ransoming the Captive
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16–21, ESV)
So there you go: Jesus’ first sermon. His first public speech. The initial announcement of his ministry. And what was front and center in that announcement and in that ministry?
Given the way Jesus highlights the topic, then, it should be no surprise that for the first eighteen centuries of the church’s existence, the Work of Mercy of ransoming the captive in Jesus’ name was front and center in the church’s practice as well.
And, to be real clear about it (and to telegraph the punch of where we’re going this month):
For the first eighteen centuries of the church’s existence, ransoming the captive in Jesus’ name meant literally ransoming literal captives.
In other words, the Work of Mercy of ransoming the captives is a whole life Work. It’s spiritual, to be sure, but it doesn’t stop there. Because the human being is more than spirit, and captivity is always more than spiritual. Ransoming is a spirit-soul-body activity, and I think we’ll be surprised to learn how seriously not only Jesus but the whole church took each dimension of that Work.
Ransoming the captive means the expensive day-to-day function of redeeming, or buying back, individuals taken captive by their enemies through war or kidnapping or imprisonment.
In the ancient world, families ransomed captive family members, armies ransomed captive soldiers, and whole nations ransomed their citizens.
And for eighteen centuries, the church ransomed its people, too. This month we’re going to see how and why, and how it all connects right back to that first sermon that Jesus ever preached, and to Jesus’ ransoming of each of us.
We’ll start that in the next blog post.
In the meantime, answer this: what do you think ransoming the captive looks like for the church today? What about for you individually?