Slavery to Sin
One of the great heroes in African-American history is a woman named Harriet Tubman, a slave in Maryland who escaped to Philadelphia over the famous “Underground Railroad” and then became one of its most successful conductors in the years leading up to the Civil War.
Mrs. Tubman became known as “Moses” for her work in helping bring slaves to freedom. Altogether, she made nineteen trips back to Maryland and led about three hundred slaves from bondage to freedom. It was said that she worked between trips to get enough money to pay whatever it took for these slaves to reach freedom. The work of the Underground Railroad was a process of redemption, taking people out of slavery and setting them free no matter what the cost.
This story of redemption from human slavery forms an excellent backdrop for discussing the redemption that God accomplished when He sent His Son from heaven to lift us from our spiritual slavery to sin. Redemption involves paying a purchase price, and it was often used in the context of the slave market. As we will see, this is how the biblical writers used the term to describe the purchase price that Jesus Christ paid on the cross.
The people of Jesus’ day readily understood references to slavery because at that time the nation of Israel itself was under the heel of its Roman conquerors, and an estimated sixty million people were living as slaves throughout the Roman Empire. These people understood slavery very well.
Most people would not appreciate being called slaves, because it’s not an attractive or complimentary term. Slavery suggests being in bondage to a person or a system, with no control over your own life and no way out. But Jesus used this term on one occasion to startle His hearers with the reality of sin’s bondage and their need for redemption. And not surprisingly, the people reacted with shock and disbelief.
Evans, A. T. (2002). Totally saved : Understanding, experiencing, and enjoying the greatness of your salvation. Series statement on jacket.; Includes indexes. The understanding God series (47). Chicago: Moody Press.