In the first movie there is a very moving scene towards the beginning. Prim, the little sister of the main character Katniss, is selected a one of district 12’s tributes. She is small, young, scrawny, immature, etc… The girl doesn’t stand a chance to survive one day out in the wilderness much less an environment rigged with deadly features coupled with 23 other people trying to hunt you down.
That is when Katniss steps up to yell, “I volunteer as tribute”. She steps into the place of her sister Prim in order to save her. The Gospel is akin to this. Jesus, knowing we have absolutely no chance to escape death, volunteered and took our place. We all understand this aspect of the Gospel. We all affirm that Jesus paid my sin debt. My question today is, “To whom was the ransom paid?”
Historically there have been three answers to this question.
Satan—One of my favorite movies is Man on Fire starring Denzel Washington. He is hired as a bodyguard for a little girl in Mexico. She needs one because there is a huge kidnapping problem there. Lo and behold she gets nabbed one day. Denzel sets out on a mission to track down the people responsible for this, leaving a path of mayhem in his wake. At the end of the movie (spoiler alert) he is on the phone with the people who have the girl. In negotiations to get her back the bad guy says, “A life for a life”. What is implied is that if the girl is to go free Denzel must take her place.
People view the Atonement like this. Jesus went to Hell, paying Satan the ransom so that we could be set free. To be “lost” in this view is to be in control of Satan. Lost people are in control of Satan but that isn’t necessarily what makes them lost. This view is false.
Man— God is pictured as a grieving husband running after his wayward wife. Trying to convince her he will take her back and forgive her all her wrongdoings. All the sacrifices he makes aren’t bc he did anything wrong, but simply to show her he is serious and an attempt to win her heart once again, to show her there are no roadblocks to them having a successful marriage.
The problem is man’s stubborn rebellion and pride. The Cross isn’t absolutely necessary for our salvation, rather God used it as a demonstration of his love to show us there are no obstacles existing for us to come back to him. But how can the Cross function as a demonstration of love with no context? That is, would you consider it an act of love if your husband/wife shot themselves after an argument?
God—The reason we are lost is not because we are in control of Satan or that we have turned away from God. Although, both of these are indirectly true. We are lost because we have offended the Holy and Righteous God. Hebrews 9:11-14 tells us that when Jesus died he took his sacrifice TO GOD in Heaven. He did this because God is the one who is offended. We we say we are lost we mean we are pursued by the wrath of God.
In the 14th century, Robert The Bruce, next in line to the Scottish crown, led the fight to gain independence from England. At one point in the conflict, the English were about to capture him. He escaped into the forest, so they put bloodhounds on his trail. When Bruce heard the dogs barking loudly as they closed in on him, he headed for a stream that flowed through the forest, plunged in, and waded upstream a distance. Coming out on the other bank, he was now in the depths of the forest. Within minutes, the hounds, tracing Bruce's steps, came to the bank, but they went no farther. The English soldiers urged them on, but the trail was broken. The stream had carried the scent away. A short time later, the crown of Scotland rested on the head of Robert Bruce. The anger of God pursues us like those dogs. But a stream flows red with the blood of God's own Son. This stream breaks the trail of God's anger.
The key to the Atonement is not to break the chains of Satan’s control in your life, it is not to humble yourself and become affectionate to God once again, the key to the Atonement is to have the wrath of God satisfied. This is only possible in the Cross. The Cross satisfies the wrath of God so that we can experience the love of God once again.