“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
These are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's famous “I Have A Dream” speech. He spoke these words in protest against the awful way that African-Americans were being treated at that time. He spoke these words to support those who were being shackled and oppressed by racism and segregation. He spoke these words hoping to inspire others to join him in his cause against injustice. He spoke these words to all who desired freedom.
This is just one example of the many times in history where people have spoken up and fought for their freedom. Wars have raged and battles have been contested for the sake of freedom, because everyone wants freedom. People seem to have a natural desire to be free from certain things that would bind us and keep us down. We wish to be free to make our own choices when it comes to religion and government. We want to be free to live our lives our own way, and to be considered equal alongside everyone else. We wish to be free from tyranny and oppression; we wish to be free from violence and danger. And perhaps most of all, we want to live our lives without fear. Yes, indeed, everybody wants to have this freedom.
Did you know that this is the very reason Jesus came to earth? For freedom! That's exactly what the Scripture from Isaiah said and exactly what Jesus fulfilled. Luke 4 tells us, The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Jesus. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Did you see that? The whole section is about freedom? Freedom for the poor from their states of poverty. Freedom for prisoners from their chains. Freedom for the blind from their inability to see. Freedom for the oppressed from their oppression!
When we look at these Scriptures, we see that Jesus was all about freedom.
There was just one problem: the people who heard this message didn't have any idea what kind of freedom Jesus was talking about. They knew their Bible and knew that many of the prophecies of Isaiah spoke of the restoration of Jerusalem and freedom for Israel. So they wrongly took these prophecies to refer to an earthly king that would give them release from a physical oppression.
More specifically, they thought it would mean the release from Roman rule. It would mean that they would stop hearing loud commands barked at them in Latin. They would stop hearing the clanking of Centurion metal as the soldiers marched by. It would mean that they would no longer fear the grotesque ways of Roman punishment -- such as battles with the lions and crucifixion.
But as bad as the Romans were, this was the least of the Israelite's worries. They had a much worse ruler that enslaved them. Sin.
Sin handcuffed their lives. It enslaved their thoughts. It ruined their relationships. And it was too great for them to break free from! Then, sin slapped on another shackle: namely, the belief that their sins weren’t that big of a deal, and they could easily make up for them by following a few laws. Then they were gagged by their own spiritual leaders who promoted and taught such false doctrine and unbelief. Finally they were tied up by their own blindness, unable to see the truth when it was right in front of their face. Oh, how they needed freedom, and oh, how they needed Jesus.
We are the same way. We need freedom from our sins. Just think of how sin infects your day:
You get up and immediately start grumbling because "This isn't the day, the Lord has made; but another day I have to go to work." Already the chain of sin has been attached. Soon more links will be added. You complain about breakfast because it wasn’t what you wanted. You worry about that day, failing to trust in God to care for you. You say something unpleasant as you have to adjust the seat in your car, because the last person to drive was a bit shorter. You pound the steering wheel in frustration at the 'jerk' who cuts in front of you on the way to work. You get to work and bad mouth your boss to another coworker. Then, you spend the next three hours trying to waste time on Facebook and doing anything but work. You take a longer lunch break than allowed, but are sure to sign in that you were there the whole time. When work is over, you come home and ignore your spouse. You neglect your chores. You refuse to do your homework! Then, you watch a few shows that would make your grandma blush, before you drink a few too many shots of alcohol and go to bed before even thinking about saying a prayer to the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, there is just no stopping it. Sins come one right after the other. We are so tied down by our sins that we soon don’t even recognize most of them. And once they are there, what can be done?
"Oh to be released from this bondage and oppression! Won’t someone offer us some help? Won’t someone get us out of this jail of evil?"
And then Jesus speaks...
“He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Do you hear Jesus' message to you? In him, we are free!
Because Jesus became a slave to our sin! He took it on himself and followed our sin to the cross. He was crucified for our sin. Brutally punished. Then, he became a slave to death. Into the grave he went!
And with his death, one by one the links of the chain release, fall to the ground, and disappear.
Then, the miraculous! The Son of God breaks free from death. He comes out of the grave that held him as a slave to death. He comes to the freedom of life and declares, “I release you from the burden of your sin. I declare you not guilty of your crimes against me and against others. I free you from the debt that you owe. It is now on me. Come, taste my freedom! Come enjoy life apart from the guilt of sin! Come, to the freedom of heaven!"
There has been a lot of talk lately about captivity and freedom with release of the three women from their home made prison of 10 years in Ohio! I think that's hard to imagine what it must have been like to live imprisoned in a basement or backyard. Chained to the wall. Unable to see family or friends. Barely even remembering family or friends! How painful to think of!
But how great do you suppose it felt the first moment each woman knew she was free? How awesome do you think that feeling of liberation was when it finally came? I doubt words can adequately describe it!
And yet even as great as that may be, it doesn’t compare to the freedom that we have through Christ. To know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are no longer bound to hell. To know with 100% certainty that our sins have been paid for. To have the ultimate hope of eternal blessedness and happiness with God. Can there be anything better? Not a chance. The words of Martin Luther King seem so appropriate here. “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Jesus was sent to proclaim the joyous message of freedom to the world. And no doubt it gave him great pleasure every time that he did so. And now he gives us that pleasure as well. We now have the message of freedom from sin and death, the greatest message in all the world, the greatest message for the world. Let freedom ring! Every time that we share the news of a loving Savior with someone else, we get to experience it all over again. How cool is that? God gives us the opportunity for never ending joy while we serve him.
Every time you get to say, “Jesus Christ has died to free you from your sins and rose to life so you could live with him forever.” The Holy Spirit speaks in your heart as well saying, “Yes, and all this he has done for you too.”
So let freedom ring! Let it ring from your homes as you gather around the Word. Let it ring from this church as we worship and celebrate the sacraments. Let freedom ring from you in the workplace. Let it ring from you in the car. Let it ring from the soccer fields and basketball courts to the band rooms and the classrooms. Let freedom ring from North Raleigh, to South Raleigh. From Durham to Cary. To Duke to UNC. Let freedom ring in and amongst these places and everywhere in between and beyond. Let the message of Christ’s freedom be heard again and again as we always say with joy, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”