For those who like to watch movies, I think that we like to see heroes rescuing people in distress. After all, that’s one of the normal “movie definitions” of a hero: someone who goes to great lengths to help someone else. When an innocent person (especially a friend or family member of the protagonist) is kidnapped or placed in danger, the hero (whether a man, woman, or alien) must rescue them, or there’s an oppressed group who needs to be liberated.
I think that we’ve gotten away from the classic “damsel in distress” model, though. These days, it may be unlawfully imprisoned people needing to be freed, a labor camp that deserves to be liberated, or a remote planet whose population is living under the rule of some sort of “space tyrant”. Sometimes, the rescuing is even done in more symbolic or abstract ways, too.
Still, the hero usually applies extraordinary abilities – whether insightful knowledge, powerful friends, cool technology, or even superpowers – to achieve what seems impossible. And sometimes, when the final rush to freedom occurs (often accompanied by a hail of bullets, laser blaster fire, or a big explosion), the hero isn’t among those who are freed. Sometimes, the hero buys the freedom of others with his or her own life.
For those who have studied the life of Jesus Christ, we find that He was exactly this sort of hero. We were lost (and deservedly so, having chosen to sin and separate ourselves from God). We were imprisoned and deserving of death because of our decisions, and had no hope of escape.
Jesus – the ultimate, actual hero – not only achieved what we could not (when He lived a perfect life), but He also paid the ultimate price for our freedom. When He died for our sins, He took our place so that our sin-debt was paid for. When He died and was buried, our freedom had been purchased (see Ephesians 2:4-7). The prison locks and bars were opened, and we were free to go.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:16-21 NIV
The even more amazing part, though, is that Jesus’ success was topped off on the third day when God the Father raised Him (Jesus, God the Son) from the dead. So, as the great exodus of freed souls – including me and you, if you accept Jesus’s gift – was led by Jesus Himself (see Romans 6:9-10 and 1 Corinthians 15:20). The hero gave His life, and yet still reigns when the final credits roll.
Here’s an amazing thing, though: You can also be a hero to those who are still locked in the prison of sin.
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20 NIV
If you see someone who has gotten far away from God, and lovingly show them the way back, you are like the hero in one of those action movies. This is true if you help someone who has followed Jesus (but drifted away), or if you lead someone to the salvation that Jesus offers for the first time. None of us (except Jesus) actually saves people, but we can still show lost people the way to freedom from their sins.
In the movies, it’s great when we see lots and lots of people – who were once suffering – running into their freedom and a new life, after being liberated. May we seek to make that throng of rescued souls – following Jesus to freedom and eternal joy – as huge as possible when the final scenes of history are played out.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.