"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Turn your eyes upon Jesus . . . Turn your eyes upon Jesus, that was the words, that was the theme of our hymn today, and that should be the words of our heart, that should be the theme of our soul and our spirit. To look around the world today and see it for what it is, it's hard to see goodness, it's hard to see compassion, as we focus ourselves, our thoughts and our minds, our hearts and our spirits to the plight and the sufferings of the hostages and the captives, to the prisoners and the slaves who are so brutally ripped from their homes, from their families, their friends and their loved ones, from the innocence that they once had in their soul. It's hard to see love, it's hard to see compassion and mercy, it's hard to see the will and the hand of God at work as it should be in all things and through all things, and there, amidst desperation and despair, amidst agony and suffering, torment and sorrow, we have to wonder, where is God in all of this? Why has He not revealed Himself? He is a God of righteousness, a God of mercy who is always contending with the cause of His children. So where is He? Why has He not revealed Himself in these places? Why is evil still allowed to triumph, why is it still allowed to rise, to be on the march?
We wonder, and yet it seems that there is no real good answer. And yet, amidst our captivity, amidst our Gospel lesson, we find that there is always an answer. And that answer comes in the love of Christ. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." We think about that in terms of our own personal salvation, or in terms of our refuge to that Rock of Salvation, that Rock of Ages. And yet it means so much more than that to us amidst our own personal struggles, and the struggles of the hostages and prisoners. Because what we consider when we consider that lesson is the true nature of what Christ's sacrifice was, the true nature of what His sacrifice means to us. For that sacrifice was a price that was paid, each and every one of us, we were lost, we were bound to sin, death, and the Devil. We were held in captivity to iniquity and unrighteousness, to hatred and to loathing. And there amidst that captivty that we were held in, to that dark prince, that prince of this world, that old adversary who seeks our demise, amidst that captivity and bondage, those dark chains that kept us submissive to him and to his will, Christ came, that Messiah who was promised even in the days of old. Even in the first days of man's first iniquity, He came and He set us free, He set captivity captive, and He ransomed all the poor lost sinners out there, setting them free amidst His love and compassion.
And if this is the Gospel message of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, if this is the Gospel message of God our Heavenly Father, who cares for His children, who has so much compassion for them, and if this is the power that they have over the great might, the great authority that Satan has in this world, then how much more power, how much more authority do they have over unrighteous men, against wicked men, how much more power does our Triune God have against those vile perpetrators of such brutal iniquity? There, we know that God our Heavenly Father has the power to set captivity captive, to ransom all the poor and lost souls by the power of His hand, and that in faith, in righteousness, in grace, in mercy He shall do just that according to His will and according to His desire in His time. We don't have to question where God is in all of this, we have to question when is God going to work His will? And there we know the answer, because it is only a matter of time. It is only a matter of time for He is ever faithful to His promises and to His assurances.
Consider how long people waited for the coming Messiah. It got to a point where they thought He would never come, it got to that point where they believed He was never going to show up. And just as they started to assume that, here He comes. Here He comes, born in the most meager of estates, born in the most humble of circumstances. God is not going to make the prisoners and the captives wait for thousands of years before the captivity is ended, He is not going to make them wait for generation after generation for unrighteous men to be put in their place. But yet what this serves for is a valuable lesson to show us that there is only a matter of time before God’s righteousness and the righteousness of Christ that leads the way to that path of redemption shall come again in glory upon this Earth to set to flight all challenges that we face. And what a wonderful and glorious lesson that is, what a faithful assurance that we can place all of our hope in knowing that have a loving Heavenly Father, knowing that we have a loving God who is willing to do so much for us, who is willing to offer so much to us.
Place your hope and your faith in God and His promises as you lift up the hostages and the prisoners, praying that the Holy Spirit shall come upon them and give them peace, but also praying that His will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, knowing that His will, His Spirit, is a Spirit of liberty, a Spirit of Freedom, waiting to set His people free. Place your hope and your trust on that safe reliance and know that God will never let you down, know that God will never fail or forsake His children, nor will He lead them like lambs unto the slaughter in a world of wolves waiting to devour them. Trust in that promise and know that God is always faithful.
Lord, grant this unto this all.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.