Bought With a Price

Years ago at a bible study, I learned something about Jesus’ last moments on the cross that I had never heard before. Jesus’ declaration moments before death, the Greek word tetelestai or “it is finished”, was a business term. It appeared at the conclusion of documents showing that a transaction had been completed—like a receipt or invoice showing that no more payments are required.

Think on that for a moment. In the agony of His last few moments, how did Jesus choose to proclaim that the work was done?

All accounts are settled.

The cost is covered.

The debt is paid in full.

I’ve always loved that little nugget. Every time I hear the cross preached, I hope to hear it included but never have. It makes that term redemption sink in a little deeper for me. I’ve always associated the word redeem with coupons. Present a coupon, get a dollar off or something of that ilk. But our redemption didn’t come with a discount. The price was not slashed to 50% or offered as a ‘buy one get one free’ bargain. We cannot fail to miss this important point about our rescue. It was costly—enormously so. God paid for me with His Son’s life, and His suffering and blood are the currency.

But I ran across something else today that provided even more insight. I began reading through the gospels at the first of the year. You know how bible reading plans can be—miss a couple days (or a week, maybe two), get a little behind and give up. This reading plan is self-imposed, though, which helps curb the power of the nagging perfectionism that makes me want to quit if I fail to keep up. I’m not following a prescribed plan; I just read until I’m done—and how far I get each day boils down to time constraints and my ability to concentrate. Some days I get very interested and do a lot of flipping to different chapters, other gospels, chasing down some of the scriptures that are cross-referenced. Lately I’ve been in Luke, and, in deference to that pesky perfectionism, I started doubling up so that I could land on the events of the crucifixion for Good Friday.

The verse that got my attention this morning was this—

“When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” John 22:53 (ESV)

This isn’t the first time that verse has held my attention. It’s always impressed me that Jesus tells them straight up that they are on the side of evil. But this morning I did my flippity-flip routine, looking to the other accounts of Jesus’ arrest. It benefits me to layer this scripture with others.

We have this from the Last Supper in John’s gospel, hours before Jesus is arrested–

After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.  One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” John 13:21-27 (ESV)

And this account, also from John, which includes other details of Jesus’ arrest–

Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” John 18:4-8 (ESV)

It is Jesus’ authority, and how He wields that authority, that gets my attention. First it is absolute, and second, it is accompanied with absolute power.

Jesus tells Judas, and Satan who had just entered him, to make arrangements for His arrest. Does that even sound reasonable? Jesus tells Satan, the enemy, what to do, and the enemy complies. Not only does He tell Satan to handle a few details, He is sending evil off to make arrangements for His own murder and, if that’s not enough, to be quick about it.

Later in the garden, though Judas had a plan to identify the Lord for the party of soldiers, Jesus willingly identifies Himself. And not just with a casual, “OK, guys. You got me.” He uses God’s name, the divine declaration I AM. And just look at the power of those words when spoken by the One who has authority to use them. The mob’s reaction is to fall on their faces. Each time I read it, I find it even more surprising. It’s like Jesus has to tell them, “So if that’s why you’re here, then arrest me already.”

John’s account makes Luke sound a little understated. “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” But in all three scriptures, I see the tension between His authority and power, and humble obedience to the Father and the task He’s been given. In fact, I wonder if Jesus’ statement in Luke isn’t meant to imply something like this, “Didn’t you notice that you weren’t able to lay a hand on me in the temple? Remember all the times I simply passed through your midst? But this is why I’m here. OK, now you can do your thing.”

I’m sure these soldiers, the priests, Judas, every one involved, believed that they were exacting some sort of payment. This payment could only be collected by demands and threats and violence. They wanted revenge, and the cost of revenge was Jesus’ life. They were sure that His death would settle some account, one where they have to force payment in blood, one in which they believed they were justified.

But the payment isn’t forced at all. He willingly gave Himself for us. In power and authority and obedience, Jesus steps aside and lets darkness have its day.

What a beautiful redemption–

The power of darkness did not steal the payment in an act of revenge.

It wasn’t given up because of demands or threats.

It wasn’t on sale, nor was it at all cheap.

Jesus did not bargain shop for the reduced price of buying us back from evil. When He knew that He had fulfilled all that was required, He rightly declared, “It is finished.”

When those who are in Christ stand before God, they bear the seal of the Holy Spirit. We carry the receipt. Paid in full.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. I Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

 

New blog post: ADVENTures Day 6–Gaining a little perspective . . .

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.  For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.

I fell into a bit of a funk today, friends. I’ve had a little trouble getting in the right frame of mind to write. Everything seemed kind of dreary and colorless, and I was depressed! The weather’s cold and wet, which kind of makes me want to curl up in bed anyway. I have a lot of work to do, but even though I stayed pretty busy, it feels like I didn’t get much accomplished. That always aggravates my stress level.

Then I had planned on going for a run after school–and probably it would have improved my mood–but I decided I could do cold but not wet. So scratch that idea. On the way home, my girls let some giggly rough housing  in the backseat turn a little violent, and the next thing I knew everyone was in trouble and I was growling at them and ordering people into their rooms. This is the fifth or sixth recent discipline event (always either to or from school) that’s left me feeling pretty inadequate as a parent. I was already running on fumes. That took the last of the wind from my sails.

Later I scrolled through my news feed and read a few headlines. Here’s what I know. Lots of people are sick–even little children with illnesses that will take their lives unless God performs a miracle. People are grieving–from past losses and from very recent ones. And the world is so violent and so full of hate. Sad, broken world.

One day not too long after my dad died, I was in about this same place.  I said, a little bitterly, to my husband, “The world is just a giant ant hill, isn’t it?”

Todd didn’t hesitate when he said, “Yes, but God chose to redeem the ant hill.”

Nice, Rev. Excellent answer.

The world is cursed because of sin, and if I choose to give too much attention to the curse, the world will seem quite out of control. But our Advent scriptures keep pointing us to God’s purpose–His plan to redeem. In today’s scripture we see prophesied the coming of Christ–a prophet who speaks God’s very words. In John’s gospel, Jesus says a number of times that He only does what He sees the Father doing, that His teaching is from the Father, that He came to finish the Father’s work, that He speaks for the honor of the Father who sent Him. We have only to look at Jesus to know our God. He loves. He is merciful. He is compassionate. He heals. He restores. He teaches. He has a purposeHe did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:17).

The Israelites in our passage did not get to hear from Jesus, God’s Word. In fact, they had told Moses that they didn’t want to hear from God directly and to get rid of that pillar of fire already. Really??? How blessed are we that eyewitnesses like John wrote all about Jesus? So that we can actually study Jesus’ words–words that came from God? We can read and know for sure that the predictions of our Advent prophecies were fulfilled in Christ.  You see, when we consider God’s purpose, and all that has already been done to accomplish His purpose, the world no longer seems to be hurtling chaotically through space. We–and this rock we call home–are all part of God’s purpose.

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:38-40)

I’m so grateful that the baby born in Bethlehem came with a purpose–to redeem this sad, broken world–and that He would not lose any of us that He’s been given!