Day 17: Jesus is Redeemer
Ыйса – кун төлөп Куткаруучу (a Central Asian language)
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. – Galatians 4:4-7
Reading Galatians 4:4-7, we learn from Paul that God the Father of our Lord Jesus did two things by sending his Son to be born in flesh and under the law like other human beings. First, he redeemed us from the bondage of the law and, secondly, he adopted us as his children. This reminded me of one Central Asian folk story that I think has very similar themes.
There was once a prominent rich man named Aldayar. He was well respected by many. Because of a series of prideful decisions and the dishonesty of some of the tribesmen, Aldayar soon lost his wealth and reputation among his people. Eventually, with his extended family, he was expelled from the tribe. In those distant years when the land belonged to the tribes rather than individuals, expulsion from a tribe meant eventual death.
As he and his family wandered the mountains, they encountered another tribe who allowed them to settle next to them to survive the winter. Aldayar’s past fame and status helped them. One day, Aldayar witnessed a high-profile dispute between the head of the neighbouring tribe and another tribe leader whose son was killed by the son of the first one. To pay for this crime and for justice to prevail, the tribe leader’s son, or someone with equal social status from the same tribe, had to be killed. Aldayar offered his own life instead of the young prince’s, with the condition that his family be admitted as rightful members of the tribe. The offer was accepted by all parties, and the prince’s life was spared. The opposing tribe leader felt his son’s death was avenged. Aldayar’s family, despite suffering the loss of their father, was saved from eventual destruction and received a new chance for life as part of the new tribe.
Most Central Asian people have lived in tribes for centuries, if not for millennia. This tribal system is so engrained in the mentality and identity of Central Asians that even seven decades of Soviet nation-building efforts did not change it drastically. Most of the present-day cultural concepts, symbols, and traditions that impact our life come from our nomadic tribal past.
So, the idea of Jesus as our Redeemer is also best understood through this prism. As we can see from this heart-breaking story of Aldayar, the idea of one paying the penalty for someone else’s crime (even by one’s own life!) is not new in our people’s communal memory. This tradition seems to be deeply rooted in the laws and regulations governing the relationships within a tribe and between tribes. No wonder, then, that the phrase “to redeem” in verse 5 is translated literally as “paying the penalty for someone’s death or property damages”.
The story of Aldayar makes it a lot easier for a Central Asian mind to understand the connection between the redemption and adoption that Paul puts together in this passage to help both the Jews and the Gentiles understand their new standing in Jesus. Despite the absence of any tribal or family ties to the young prince, Aldayar’s sacrificial payment for the young prince’s crime was accepted as having an equal value because they both were from the nobility. Moreover, thanks to the high price paid by their father, the entire family of Aldayar was adopted into the new tribe. As it was many centuries ago, one’s acceptance in a community means everything in the social fabric of Central Asians.
This echoes strongly what Paul writes in verses 6 and 7. God sent His Holy Spirit into the hearts of those whom He has redeemed and made his children. It is so incredible that God changed my status from slave to that of His child! He paid a very high price for this—the humble birth of his firstborn Son Jesus, his subjection to the bondage of the law, and his death on the cross. By sending his Spirit into my heart, God restored my connection with him, inviting me to a most intimate relationship of love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.
“Oh, our dear father, why have you done this?! Such great love and sacrifice…” might have been the thoughts of Aldayar’s children and grandchildren, forever thankful and indebted for their father’s unconditional love and care for them.
How much more and how immeasurably greater is our Heavenly Father’s love, sacrifice, and grace that we experience through Jesus Christ! I do hope that this great truth leads you, too, to reverence and humility before the feet of our Lord, as our hearts can only gasp, “Abba, Father!”
Kanat lives in Central Asia