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Commentary

Redeemed

This scene is from a video series that was recently released called The Chosen. It is a dramatization that pulls together the writer’s ideas about certain Biblical characters and gives extra, non-Biblical storyline in an attempt to provide context for the time that Jesus begins his ministry. If you’re interested in seeing more, I recommend checking out the series, either on their website or on their YouTube channel.

This last Sunday was Easter Sunday, and here in Italy, we have been in quarantine during the coronavirus lockdown. That has meant that we have been worshiping together as a family, reading and discussing them together.

On Saturday night, the night before, we watched the first couple of episodes of The Chosen, and I was struck by how Jesus, in this scene, called Mary Magdalene by name and how similar that seemed to the time when Jesus called her by name on Easter morning outside of the tomb.

In the dramatization (and keep in mind, this is fictional), Mary is called Lilith, who, as I understand, was a demonic figure in Jewish folklore. But this does align with our understanding of Mary Magdalene from the Bible because we know that Jesus healed her by casting out seven demons.

In this scene, we see Jesus call Mary by her real name and then he quotes a passage to her from Isaiah 43:

But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1

This becomes a dramatized scene, therefore, of the time that Jesus healed Mary and sent out the demons. This is the time that Jesus redeemed Mary.

But what does this mean, to be redeemed? When the prophet Isaiah speaks for God and says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you”, what is this saying?

This idea of redemption comes from the idea that, if someone were to sell themselves into slavery, they could be brought out of that slavery by a redeemer, someone who would pay the price for the person to be brought out of that slavery. Here are a couple examples of how this worked in ancient Israel:

“‘If a foreigner residing among you becomes rich and any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to the foreigner or to a member of the foreigner’s clan, they retain the right of redemption after they have sold themselves. One of their relatives may redeem them: An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in their clan may redeem them. Or if they prosper, they may redeem themselves.

Leviticus 25:47-49

Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.

Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”

“I will redeem it,” he said.

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”

At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”

(Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)

So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal.

Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses! ”

Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

Ruth 4:1-12

I love how Jesus called Mary by name, both in this dramatized scene as well as in the resurrection story. This directly aligns with the action of the redeemer that we read in Isaiah 43. The redeemer calls them out, purchasing them from their slavery, and setting them free.

This redemption happened for Mary, and is also the freedom that Jesus wants to give to all of us. Whether we realize it or not, we have been in slavery to our sin and Jesus gave himself to redeem us and to set us free. Through his death we have a sacrifice as a payment for the sins, but through his resurrection, we have life that sets us free. Like Mary, Jesus calls us by name, so we no longer need to be afraid of anything, but instead can be free because we are his.

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