To Rescue and Set Free

In this blog, that I originally wrote in 2017, I share one of my favorite stories that illustrates the ultimate reason Jesus came into the world.

In Mathew 1:18-21, we read where Joseph has learned that Mary is pregnant and he is not the father. We are told that he “not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” But then an angel of God appeared to him in a dream and said,

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

It is clear that Jesus’s mission was established before He was even born. He came to save His people from their sins.

However, there is a word used several times in the New Testament by Paul that I think best captures what Jesus has done for us. It is the Greek word “rhuomai”, which literally means “to rescue and set free.” Listen to Paul’s own words:

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13, 14)

Then in I. Thessalonians 1:9, 10;

“For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”

Author Donald Miller shares a great story about a rescue operation that took place several years ago in the Middle East. A team of Navy seals were performing a covert operation to free some American hostages.

They flew in by helicopter and made their way to the compound and stormed into the room where the hostages had been imprisoned for months. The room was filthy and dark. The hostages were curled up in a corner, terrified. When the SEALs entered the room, they heard the gasps of the hostages. They stood at the door and called to the prisoners, telling them they were Americans. The SEALs asked the hostages to follow them, but the hostages wouldn’t. They sat there on the floor and hid their eyes in fear. They were not of healthy mind and didn’t believe their rescuers were really Americans.

The SEALs stood there, not knowing what to do. They couldn’t possibly carry everybody out. One of the SEALs, got an idea. He put down his weapon, took off his helmet, and curled up tightly next to the other hostages, getting so close his body was touching some of theirs. He softened the look on his face and put his arms around them. He was trying to show them he was one of them. None of the prison guards would have done this. He stayed there for a little while until some of the hostages started to look at him, finally meeting his eyes. The Navy SEAL whispered that they were Americans and were there to rescue them. Will you follow us, he said. The hero stood to his feet and one of the hostages did the same, then another, until all of them were willing to go. The story ends with all the hostages safe on an American aircraft carrier.

Miller says that so many people see God as nothing more than an angry, judgmental, and wrathful God. However, we should see Him more like these Navy SEALs, because He came to rescue us from His wrath. And Jesus does this by absorbing God’s wrath on the cross.

Therefore the decision to follow Christ is very much like the decision these hostages had to make to follow these Navy SEALs. I think we would all agree that it would have been a great tragedy if they had refused to follow them. Yet, there are so many who refuse Jesus’s offer of rescue.

Therefore, I hope that as we enter this Christmas season, and get caught up in the pageantry and celebration of his birth, that we would not forget that God sent His son into the world, to rescue us from the domain of darkness and from the wrath to come.

This is truly “Good News.” And this is why the apostle Paul said, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” (11 Corinth 9:15)

Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.


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