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He is risen indeed!

Redemption is a word heard often in Christianity and when speaking of Jesus.  It’s a word that can be used so frequently, that it’s meaning can easily be forgotten or glossed.  When we speak of redemption we are using an economic term, it’s talking about buying something back (like something that was already yours from a pawn shop) or purchasing something, cashing something in so-to-speak (like a coupon or voucher).

In reference to Jesus of Nazareth, redemption refers to this idea that in dying on the cross, Jesus cashed himself in to buy us, humanity.  The former sense also applies when talking about Jesus; biblical history shows that humans were created to have an unblemished relationship with God.  We were created by God and for God, and yet we chose our own thing.  We ate the apple, lied to our parents, lusted and raged in our hearts; however one defines it and specifies it to oneself, we humans rebel.

We do our own thing, because we don’t need or want God.  Christians call this sin and because of it, we no longer have the unblemished relationship with God; we separate ourselves from the unblemished, uncreated God.  Now the incredible thing is that even in our rebellion, God still relates to us, and Redemption proclaims that God came to us in our rebellion and paid the price for our rebellion simply to be back in a right relationship.

There is another side to this redemption coin, however, a side a never noticed till recently.  I am focusing my personally devotional time on Mark’s gospel account and in it I notice an interesting and a little confusing sentence that Jesus uses (as if this is the only statement in that gospel that interests and/or confuses me, ha!).  In the third chapter and twenty-seventh verse, Mark shows Jesus describing his own earthly ministry in a very peculiar way, “But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong man.  Then indeed he may plunder his house.”

This phrase always confused me till I began reading a couple commentaries, one by Ben Witherington III (the coolest and smartest new testament scholar in the world) and another by James Edwards (also a really awesome and smart guy, I just haven’t seen as much of his stuff).  Both of these commentators pick up the fact that Jesus uses this statement to describe his ministry and mission.

Say What?!  Is Jesus describing his ministry in these violent and criminal terms?  Why would God in the flesh describe his time on earth like this?  Well, again, we must look at the other side of this redemption coin.  We are bought back from something.  We aren’t bought back from nothing, but we are, in fact, bought from evil personified.  The thing to remember, though is that the evil one is not willingly selling.

Jesus tells us that before him, we are the strong man’s property, literally in his house, and Mark shows that during Jesus’ wilderness trial this strong man was bound.  Jesus overcame the evil one face-to-face in the desert, and then began of ministry of stealing the strong man’s stuff.

What’s interesting about this is that we see that God and satan both value the same stuff, but for very different reasons.  People are the valuables that Jesus is taking back to God.  I picture of the violence in Jesus’ image and I see how much God values humanity and each person specifically.  I also see that this same God is really in control; Jesus subdues the strong man, and we see for the rest of Jesus’ ministry people being bought back to God and liberated.

And then we see something that’s easy to miss, but is really incredible.  That this same loving, powerful and caring God passes this mission on to his disciples.  Many time Jesus passes on his own authority and mission to his disciples, and his disciples still roam the earth today.

So I have been given this new picture of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in this world.  It still includes being with Jesus and being sent out with Jesus’ message, but it also absolutely includes running into the strong man’s house and stealing valuable things back for and to God.  The kingdom of God advances, and for this to happen the opposing kingdom must be overrun, and this is what we see.  Lives are changed by God, not good works or ourselves, and this happens when people are radically taken back to God and see their value and worth as beings created by God, loved by God and brought back to God by an unstoppable and uncontainable love.

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