Luke 1:67-68 “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.”
God, in the person of Jesus, has come and has redeemed his people. Jesus has come to us from heaven. We take that as a good thing, but it could have had a very different meaning. When Navy Seals visited Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and stormed the house, you can be sure that bin Laden didn’t say to one of his wives, “Put on some coffee, Myrt. We’ve got guests.” For bin Laden it was a terrifying visit, because justice was about to be served.
In a similar way, when God the Father visited the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve had eaten fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve didn’t cry out “Daddy!” and come running like two little children whose dad just got home from work. They ran and hid from him because they were afraid. They had become sinners, and God had warned them that the day they ate of the fruit they would surely die.
So God coming to visit people didn’t have to be a happy time. “Got sin?” Then we’ve got reason to be afraid when God comes to visit. And who doesn’t have plenty of sin? But that’s not the way that Zechariah speaks of our Savior’s coming.
This more like someone coming to visit a friend or family member in the hospital. When I make hospital calls, my visits are frequently interrupted by nurses and aids coming in to take vital signs, change an IV bag, or administer medications. It’s all neat and tidy and professional. Many times a friend or family member is also in the room. As often as not they have camped out overnight, or even for several days. Their “visit” involves tending to the patient’s needs around the clock. They are refilling a cup of water, or helping their friend get positioned more comfortably, or going to the nurses station when help is needed, or just being present to help the hours pass. This isn’t a job. It’s an act of love. It’s a product of the deep value they place on the person they have come to help.
When God came to visit us in the person of Jesus, it wasn’t a job. It was an act of love. It was the product of the deep value he placed on the people he came to help. That becomes clear when we look at the thing he came to do. “He has come and has redeemed his people.” Jesus brings us redemption. He paid the price that sets us free. He didn’t come and lay down cash on the barrel head. It wasn’t dollars or euros, or drachma or shekels for that matter. The value Jesus places on us isn’t monetary.
The price wasn’t merely time and attention, either. Here the hospital illustration limps a little. It is true that Jesus showed value and dignity to the people of his day through his ministry of mercy. He sacrificed sleep and food to heal people. When they intruded on his vacation time, he didn’t gripe about people not respecting proper boundaries and giving him a little space. He taught and healed and fed them some more. No sinner was so sinful, no Pharisee was so self-righteous, no child was so young, that Jesus did not have time to stop and share an appropriate word. He valued and reached out to them all. But the price he paid was something more.
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Jesus warned his disciples weeks before his crucifixion. He came and he died to redeem us. This was no quick and easy death. There was no bullet to the brain and instantaneous lights out. It wasn’t a lethal injection that slowly and softly slips the victim into a sleep from which he’ll never awake. Angry beatings gave way to cruel tortures that gave way to a humiliating execution–stripped of all clothing and dignity and nailed to cross like a sign nailed to a post. His Father forsook him and hell consumed him–all of it the price he was willing to pay for one reason. This is how much you mean to him, how deeply he values you. This is the price of our redemption, and it frees us from every sin.