In the past week a number of people have been released from captivity. The Burmese military authorities released the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, from house arrest. The Nobel Peace Prize winner had been detained for 15 of the past 21 years. Soon after her release she spoke of the need for unity and said that she felt no resentment against the authorities who had imprisoned her. Throughout her imprisonment she has acted with great grace and dignity.
A few days later Paul and Rachel Chandler, who had been held for 13 months by Somali pirates, were also released. It was reported that two factors contributed to their release: the payment of ransoms and the benevolent intervention of the Somali community, both in the UK and in Somalia.
The release of these people is good news. The stories stand out against the background of the troubles afflicting so many people in the world today. They also remind us of some of the key themes in the good news of God’s gracious intervention into our world through his Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus suffered and was shamefully treated by both the secular and religious powers of his day. He was denied justice and condemned to death. Throughout his sufferings he was calm and gracious and, even when he was on the Cross, prayed “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
His died, not because he had done wrong, but for the sins of the world. He stood in our place and endured the punishment our sins deserve. He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. He paid the price of our sins. He satisfied the righteous demands of God in order that all who trust in him as their Saviour may be forgiven and go free.
Each one of us is a prisoner to our sinful nature. We do not have the power to change our lives for the better. Our whole lives bear witness to the fact that we have broken God’s law. In Jesus Christ we can find forgiveness and the strength to live a new life. He said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” As one hymn says, “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.”