Revelation 1:5-6 “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen.”
Almost twenty years ago I watched the video from a Houston courtroom in which multi-millionaire Robert Durst was acquitted of murdering his neighbor, Morris Black. Mr. Durst claimed that he killed Mr. Black in self-defense. After killing him he cut up the body and threw it into Galveston Bay. He did not deny disposing of the body this way. The courtroom camera caught Mr. Durst’s reaction as the not guilty verdict was read. I wish I could show you a picture. You could see the tension escaping his body as his shoulders suddenly relaxed. His head tilted back, he closed his eyes, and he let out a visible sigh. I suspect he was not expecting a not guilty verdict. I am certain he was utterly relieved to be out from under the threat of punishment.
In the Lutheran Sunday service, you hear week after week that you are on the receiving end of a not-guilty verdict. Together we confess our sins. The pastor announces God’s mercy and forgiveness for the sake Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. We are free to go. We are out from under the threat of a punishment that would make death by any means look inviting. Do you feel relieved? Whether or not you have the same sense of relief as Robert Durst, the fact remains that Jesus has set us free from the anger of God our sins deserved.
What makes that freedom truly special is the price the King paid to set his subjects free. He gave his own blood, his own life. When someone asks us merely to lend them something– not to take it, just to borrow it– do you sometimes feel some inner hesitation, especially if it is something you hold dear? Will it be damaged? Will it be broken? Will it ever be returned? Will we be inconvenienced while it is gone?
Jesus didn’t merely risk his life for us. He didn’t temporarily lend us his body. He knew that it would be damaged, and broken, and taken away from him. He gave his life up to free us from our sins. “No greater love has anyone than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
We give those who have given their lives to ensure our political freedoms and personal liberties a special place in our hearts for the sacrifices they have made. But none of them died for their natural enemies like Jesus died for us. None of them were punished in our place. None of them suffered the hell Jesus suffered for us. This was the price for our freedom, and we give Jesus glory because he has freed us from our sins by his blood.