Part V of our series on Ransoming the Captive
On the island of Patmos, John, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, records the vision given him by God. In this part, the angels worship Christ for condescending to be our ransom:
“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’
(Revelation 5:8–10, ESV)
Now here’s the really interesting part about the word “ransomed” in this passage of Scripture. In Greek, the word that’s used is agorazo, which means “to be in the market place… to do business there, buy or sell.”
Jesus, in other words, is described as “doing the business” of buying us back!
The angels sing about how he does this: by purchasing us captives with the currency of his own blood.
Jesus the businessman, buying back captives. It’s an amazing thing for angels to sing about, don’t you think? It shows just how earthy this business of redemption is. He doesn’t just redeem us spiritually. He spills his very physical blood in order to redeem our spirits, souls, and bodies.
If you want to get even the smallest glimpse of what that’s like, consider the story of Oscar Schindler, another businessman who gave everything he had—spirit, soul, and body—to redeem the Jewish people from destruction at the hands of the Nazis.
Here’s how Louis Bulow tells it:
“Why did [Schindler] do it? Why did he spend something like 4 million German marks keeping his Jews out of the death camps—an enormous sum of money for those times?…
No one will ever know exactly what made this complex man do what no German had the courage to do. A large part of the fascination of Schindler is that not even those who admire him most can figure out his motives. But Oscar Schindler rose to the highest level of humanity, walked through the bloody mud of the Holocaust without soiling his soul, his compassion, his respect for human life – and gave his Jews a second chance at life. He miraculously managed to do it and pulled it off by using the very same talents that made him a war profiteer—his flair for presentation, bribery, and grand gestures.
Oscar Schindler was a sentimentalist who loved the simplicity of doing good. A man full of flaws like the rest of us. An ordinary man who even in the worst of circumstances did extraordinary things, matched by no one. The unlikeliest of all role models who started by earning millions as a war profiteer and ended by spending his last pfennig and risking his life to save his 1300 Schindlerjews.…
Irving Glovin, Schindler’s attorney and friend, met Oscar in 1963 and bought the rights to the story and film in 1980. He later recalled Schindler not only with affection, but with great admiration: ‘He drank, yes, he drank. He liked women. He bribed. But he bribed for a good purpose. All of these things worked. If he were not this kind of person he probably wouldn’t have succeeded. Whatever it took to save a life he did.’”
It’s not in the drinking or the love of women or the bribery that Schindler is like Jesus. It’s the part that says, “Whatever it took to save a life he did.”
But you’ll notice that even Schindler’s generosity is only the faintest reminder of Jesus’ own.
Jesus gave more than 4 million German marks in ransom. He became the ransom for us.
And that’s why in heaven, the elders and the four living creatures praise, of all things, Jesus’ business savvy! He put the right value on the right things, and whatever it took to save a life—which, it turns out, was giving his own life—he did.
That’s what Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:17-19. Here, Peter talks about exile. That’s where we are now: in exile. Struggling through a world caked everywhere with the mud of sin. God cast our ancestors out of the Garden of Eden and consigned us to exile as the necessary consequence of our sins. But as Peter reminds us, God did this for our own good. There’s something we’re learning here; namely, the ways of the one who ransomed us. We’re learning to be like him. Peter says:
“…conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
(1 Peter 1:17b–19, ESV)
If we’re learning to be like him, and he was a ransom, then how do you think he wants us to mirror that to the world? Or, to ask it a little differently:
Did he become a ransom so that we don’t have to?
Answer: No. He became our ransom so that we would voluntarily choose to use our whole lives to ransom others also. Use our lives in a way that makes Oscar Schindler’s 4 million German marks seem average, not extraordinary.
What would it look like for you to do that? Who can you ransom out of captivity this way?