REDEMPTIVE RANSOM: A HOMILY ON THE 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B, BY FR. IFEANYICHUKWU HENRY NWOKORO, CSsR, IBADAN
In recent years in Nigeria, the level of poverty and unemployment has pushed many people to seek the easy way out. So many people have been kidnapped and the kidnappers would always ask for a ransom of a particular amount. Sometimes the person who is kidnapped may not have the money, but the ransom will be paid by his/her family members to secure his/her release. This is a very bad example but it is an example that will help us to understand the readings of today.
It was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief. When he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities: This passage is understood to be talking about Jesus, the suffering servant. God as is presented here is like a sadist who willed that his son should suffer. But we understand the will of God here as the permissive will of God. The suffering of Jesus is more a side effect than the sickness. When we say God sent his son to die, it is like saying a mechanic goes to work to be dirty. The reason the mechanic is going to work is not in order to go make himself dirty. However, he knows that in doing his job, he will definately get dirty. Jesus came to the world to save us, and the consequence of that is that he will be killed. So his death is the consequence of the life he chose, namely to save us. It is like saving someone who is drowning. It is impossible to save a drowning person without getting wet. So, it is impossible for Jesus to come to the world and do all he did without getting killed. This is also the implication of being a good christian. His suffering will not be in vain, just as the dirtiness of the mechanic is not in vain.
When a family is asked to pay a ransom, sometimes, they will have to make great sacrifices to raise the money. Some members of that family may have to go hungry, for love of their brother or sister who have been kidnapped. Jesus is our brother and the devil has kidnapped us. We are so invaluable that no amount of money can pay our ransom. We have offended a God who loves us infinitely and nothing finite is enough to pay the price. He had to suffer and die in order to ransom us from our sins. He is our Goel, our close relative who is prepared to go through anything in order to pay our ransom.
PAYING THE RANSOM
At that time: James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus, and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, Grand us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory. ”But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the chalice that I drink, or to be baptised with the baptism with which I am baptised?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The chalice that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptised, you will be baptised; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, They began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so mong you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”: Jesus promises us here that He will give his own life as a ransom for us. Many people would be prepared to pay money to ransom their relatives, but how many people can pay the ransom if it requires them to be killed in place of the person who has been kidnapped? That is exactly how much Jesus loves us. Sometimes our prayers do not sound like the prayer of people who are loved by God.
Like the sons of Zebedee, we usually pray, “Lord, do for me whatever I ask of you”. If God is to do for us whatever we ask, none of us would have lived to see this day. This is the same with doing for your children whatever they ask. You know better than them, and sometimes you will hurt them by denying them what they are convinced is right for them. We are more foolish than we realise.
All they want is to have a good time. They talk of Jesus’ glory with no refference to his suffering, we cannot take one and leave the other. We watch adverts on different products where we are promissed maximum enjoyment at no cost. However, when we get to the details of it, we will realize it is not as easy as the adverts make them seem.
Jesus speaks here like our adverts. He described his suffering as a cup and His death as a baptism. Drinking of his own cup is like dining and wining with the king. But Jesus is not trying to deceive us like our adverts do. He is telling us the truth. When we unite our sufferings with his, we suffer with him, and this is a privillege. Who are we to suffer like Jesus did? Who are we to go through the same thing Jesus went through? Through our suffering, we drink of the cup that only Jesus is worthy to drink. This worthiness comes through our baptism, because we are baptised into Christ. Though our baptism we are born again. Someday, our following Christ will make us cry. Can you drink from the same cup as the master? He also cried on the cross. Jesus changes the meaning of our suffering. It becomes an enjoyment, because it brings us to sit on the same table as Jesus. This kind of suffering is a blessing to those who understand it.
WHAT HAS NOT BEEN ASSUMED CANNOT BE REDEEMED
Brethren: Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.: St. Gregory of Nazianzus tells us that what has not been assued has not been redeemed. Jesus in order to save us did not pay our ransom from a distance. Usually they will ask you to take the money to a particular spot at a particular time and leave it there. You will neither see them nor they see you. Jesus did not pay our ransom in this way. Rather, he paid our ransom by becoming one of us and being killed instead of us. He went through all we go through, except sin. Even when he did not sin, he faced temptations just like we do. In this way, he understands our situation by a first hand experience. Something happened when I was in secondary school and it reminds me of what Jesus has done for us.
I was coming back from school with a group of friends when a man drove past with his family. He had a nickname which older people would call him, but at our age, we dare not call him by that nickname. Permit me not to mention names because it is a true story. As he drove past, one of my friends shouted his nickname. He made to drive on and he stopped and began to demand to know who called him by his nickname. Of course we all denied, including the person to did it. He insisted that none of us would go home until we told him who did it. We all expected the offender to own up, but he did not. In the end, another friend of mine, who was not the one who did it, said he did it. We were all shocked as we all knew who did it. The man started raining down insults on the innocent boy who kept saying he was sorry. After all the insults, we were all set free. One innocent man had to accept the guilt in order to set us free. We were all angry with the boy who actually did it. When I think of it today, this is what Jesus has done for us. This is how he paid our ransom. My innocent friend had to assume the guilt of my guilty friend in order to redeem him. He could not have redeemed him otherwise. What has not been assumed has not been redeemed.