"God said to His beloved Son: 'It's time to have compassion. Then, go, bright Jewel of My crown, And bring them all salvation. From sin and sorrow set them free; Slay bitter death for them that they may live with You forever.'
"The Son obeyed His Father's will, Was born of virgin mother; And God's good pleasure to fulfill, He came to be my Brother. His royal pow'r disguised He bore; A servant's form, like mine, He wore To lead the devil captive."
Martin Luther composed this hymn, "Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice," as a ballad, a story told in song by musicians as they traveled from town to town. The hymn is a "news flash" set to music. As the ballad begins, we find ourselves held captive by Satan, bound by the chains of sin and death. We are unable to free ourselves, no matter how much we might struggle to do so.
Our good works and efforts to earn God's favor fall far short of the mark: "You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect," Jesus said (Matthew 5:48). Our fear and despair increase. But there is hope, a hope set in place by the mercy of God. Even before the foundation of the world, God chose us as His own and set in motion His plan for our salvation (see Ephesians 1:4). When the time was right, He sent a Champion to fight for us and set us free.
God sent His treasure, His only Son. Only Christ Jesus, our Champion, could by His own death "slay bitter death" and set us free from Satan's grasp. To accomplish this quest, Jesus became one of us, His majesty hidden—disguised!—under a servant's form. Jesus shared our flesh and blood, so "that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery" (Hebrews 2:14b-15).
Jesus bore our sins in His body and hung helpless on the cross to save all those bound and helpless in Satan's chains of sin and death. Jesus suffered in our place the penalty of death that we deserved and then rose bodily from the grave. Sin, death, and the devil lay conquered beneath our Champion's nail-scarred feet.
Luther's ballad presents what the Reformer called the "joyful exchange." Christ Jesus took onto Himself what is ours, our sin and shame and, in exchange, gives us what was and is His from all eternity—His righteousness, glory, and eternal life. Is it an even trade, a fair exchange? No, it is not, and for that inequity we will give thanks and praise to our Savior for all eternity.
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, by faith we cling to You in life and death. You saw our great need and came to set us free. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice," which is found on page 556 in the Lutheran Service Book.
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