This time of year we tend to hear the word “redemption” often. It’s just past that time in the church calendar – when hosannas are sung as Lent gives way to Easter and everyone is saying “He is risen!” We just celebrated that death was not the end – with the rising of our Savior history changed directions, veering off the road to destruction. And redemption began.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right one.” That is what redemption is – being put back on the right road.
Redemption is one of the four “plot points” of the metanarrative of the Bible – creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. This is the overture of Scripture, the theme that we keep returning to like a melody in song. Not only do these four words sum up the larger story of God’s relationship with his people, but we see them played out in the individual tales of the people of God throughout the Bible.
Consider two examples – Abraham and Ruth.
Creation: God gives Abram a new name, Abraham, and promises to make a nation out of him.
Fall: Abraham loses faith in God and conceives Ishmael with his wife’s servant.
Redemption: God rebukes Abraham but saves Ishmael’s life and blesses him.
Restoration: Abraham conceives Isaac with his wife and becomes the father of the nation of Israel.
Creation: Ruth, a Moabite, marries an Israelite man and becomes part of a new family.
Fall: Her husband dies, as does her father-in-law. Instead of returning to her people she stays with her mother-in-law, Naomi, and returns with her to Bethlehem, a strange country.
Redemption: Boaz, literally called her “kinsman redeemer” sees that Ruth is an honorable woman and marries her, saving Ruth and Naomi from poverty.
Restoration: Ruth bears a son, bringing the joy of new life and grandchildren to Naomi’s life.
We find this pattern repeated again and again in scripture. And beyond that we find it in the natural world. Even now spring is breathing the world back to life – the green leaves sprout like a new creation, bearing new fruit. And all will grow in strength until the fall, when everything begins to die. But amazingly, even this death prepares the earth for new life – the leaves and fruit that fall decompose and nourish the soil, that will ultimately restore the trees again to life. Creation, fall, redemption, restoration.
Of course the truth is, the narrative of Scripture did not quite make it to restoration – it only foreshadowed it, prophesied it’s coming, and left us here in the redemption till Christ returns. And now redemption is our work too. “God allots and entrusts everyone an area to redeem: this creased and feeble life, ‘the world in which you live, just as it is, and not otherwise,’” writes Annie Dillard, quoting Martin Buber. The great redemption of our world has begun, and now we are participants.
What happened after the events we celebrate at Easter? Jesus charged his disciples with the Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
By no merit or power of our own, we have been put back on the right road. Let us not fail to share our salvation with others and in turn show them the new life we have in Christ.