Jesus the Redeemer

We are going to continue on this path of defining who Jesus is for a couple more weeks.  I think that it is just so vitally important in the world that we live in nowadays to be reminded that Jesus is something special.  In a world where everything special is marginalized and we tell everyone that they are special, something that is truly extraordinary, like Jesus can become lost in the noise of modern society.  We are going to talk a little bit about that society today and how it can hold us back from a true relationship with God.  We are going to read through 1 Peter 1:18-21 today. 

18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

The book of 1 Peter was written by the disciple, Peter, around 65 A.D. during his time as bishop of either Rome or Antioch.  This letter was written to be dispersed to multiple churches that were suffering a new level of persecution under a change in leadership of the local governments.  These early Christians were getting discouraged and beginning to question the teachings of Jesus. 

Today we are going to talk about Redemption.  Jesus our Redeemer.  Redemption is a tough word and it gets throw around a lot, especially if you follow sports.  It seems like every game is painted by the broadcasters, as an opportunity for redemption.  The last time that these teams met, one team beat the other.  Today the other team has a shot at redemption.  This quarterback had a subpar game last week; this week he’s out for redemption.  Last year this team was knocked out of the tournament and they are looking for redemption this year.  While these are all technically correct, the actual meaning of this word is so much bigger than this.  Redemption is about the removal of a debt or a forgiveness from a mistake or a sin.  It is inherently a religious word that gets incorrectly used all over the place.

So let’s talk about Jesus our Redeemer.  What is Jesus redeeming us from and what do we have to do to get this redemption he offers us?  From the time of Moses, the time when the Israelite nation and religion was brought together and formed, forgiveness of sins has always been at the center of the focus.  The idea is simple, God has created perfection for us when our time on earth is over, and we can return to God and live forever in paradise, but only if we worship and do what God tells us.  Well this isn’t as easy as one would think, so what can we do if we screw up?  That is why we need redemption.  Early Israelites had the system put into place of offering up to God a sacrifice.  They believed that as they lived, they accumulated sin.  Every so often, it was necessary for the people to go to the temple, pray that the animal they brought would take the person’s sins upon itself, then die with those sins in the name of God.  Thus the person could walk away from this practice sin free, until they sinned again and needed to make another sacrifice.  However, Jesus brought us redemption.  Peter is talking about that type of redemptions here in this passage.  Its not something that can be bought and sold, as Peter writes, with earthly wares or money.  This Israelite practice doesn’t work because that animal isn’t worth enough to cover your sins.  In fact, it is only because of Jesus that we have any chance at all of “paying God back” for the sins in our life.    

As I read through this passage and began to think about paying for redemption, I wanted to know what a human being was worth, so I looked it up.  The internet has some amazing things out there.  Ok, there’s two ways to look at the literal value or worth of a person.  First, if we were capable of breaking our bodies down to the various elements that make up a human, and then you sold those quantities of those elements individually, you could walk away with a cool $160, with more than $100 of that coming from Potassium alone.  If you were capable of harvesting each of your parts for sale, to be implanted in another living person, you’re worth about $45 million.  However, a single intact human corpse fetches approximately $550,000 on average. 

Ok, that’s the gross and disturbing part of my sermon today and I’m sure that my internet searches are now being monitored by the CIA, but this value is what you are worth on earth.  This is how much you are “worth” to society.  So now let’s talk about how much your sin is worth.  Well during the Middle Ages, Pope Urban II declared that anyone that went to fight in the Crusades would be forgiven of their sins in the war.  Well soon, the church began to realize that they could grant these “indulgences” as they were called, to anyone doing something great or in recognition of any sort of service for the church.  This very quickly became a corrupt system and priests were “selling” salvation to the common person for various amounts of money, basically whatever a person could afford.  Then they went as far as to say that you could save a loved one that had already died by purchasing an indulgence for them post-mortem.  I looked for an estimate on how much was extorted from the people from the catholic church during the middle ages in total, but couldn’t find anything.  However, if a person was to surmise that the grandest cathedrals ever built, Notre Dame, St Peter’s, parts of the Vatican, St Stephen’s, St Michael’s, all were built during the Middle Ages and they furnished them with solid gold statues and wall murals with jewels inlaid in them, we can assume that the church made a few bucks on the sins of the people.  This practice was one of the major points that sparked the Reformation and the development of the Protestant church.

These are the “empty way of life” and the “perishable” things that Peter speaks about in this passage.  While this happened hundreds of years after the book was written, it was still a practice and, dare I say, it still is today in some form.  People believe that if they come to church, put a check in the plate, then go about their week, they will earn salvation.  This practice is just as “empty” as the early Israelites bringing a sacrifice to the temple once a year.  Their sacrifices weren’t enough.  Your empty attendance isn’t enough.  Your sin costs so much more than empty actions.

Jesus Christ redeemed us.  He took something bad and worthless, us, and made it into something beautiful and perfect in the eyes of God.  Your worth on earth is definable and tangible.  You are worth what you are worth.  I was able to put a price on it just a few minutes ago.  However, you worth in the eyes of God is immeasurable.  You are worth more than you could ever imagine to God.  You are worth so much that God himself was willing to come to earth and die in your place, with your sin, just so that you have the chance and opportunity to make it to heaven and spend eternity with the Creator. 

I told you earlier that redemption is the removal of a debt or a sin.  Jesus removed your debt to sin.  He removed and forgave all sins you have committed and will ever commit.  The last part of today’s passage is a reminder that to believe in God, to be a part of this eternal paradise that has been laid out for you, you must embrace Jesus Christ as your personal redeemer.  Coming to the service, sitting weekly in the pew, and dropping your envelope will do nothing for your spiritual health.  You will not be redeemed by these earthly means.  You cannot find salvation through these modern expressions of “silver and gold.”  It is only through a real and lasting relationship with Jesus the Redeemer that we can truly find peace in God.