1027 to ONE
“Here’s a Fourth Watch story for you,” emailed one of the readers of this blog. And I agree. Early Sunday morning, June 25, 2006, Corporal Gilad Shalit, a nineteen-year-old soldier with the Israel Defense Forces, was kidnapped by Hamas militants on the Israeli side of its border with Gaza. Abducted back into Gaza, Corporal Shalit became the rallying cry of a nation caught between two clashing ideals: never negotiate with terrorists versus never abandon one of your own. Hamas refused International Red Cross requests to visit Shalit on grounds that it would reveal the captured soldier’s whereabouts. Over the five years of his captivity “Free Shalit” rallies across Israel increased pressure on the Israeli government to achieve his release. The news this week that Hamas had agreed to return Corporal Shalit was met with jubilation by Israelis . . . until the negotiated terms of the release were reported. And suddenly the country was divided. How much is one Israeli soldier worth? 1,027 convicted Palestinian prisoners? Listen to one Israeli family’s reaction: “Embittered father Zeev Rapp, 66, sat at home and watched the television in disgust. In 1992, Amrin [one of the released Palestinian prisoners] stabbed Rapp’s daughter Helena, 15, in the heart as she was on her way to school. Now, he was . . . walking free with other smiling prisoners, flashing victory signs and kissing the ground. ‘We feel as though our daughter has been murdered all over again’” (South Bend Tribune 10-19-11). And Shalit? Egyptian television released the first images of the now freed corporal, “pale, gaunt . . . in a dark baseball cap, exiting a car in Egypt, which mediated the handover” (ibid). Ecstasy for his family, mourning for another. How much is one Israeli soldier worth? So how much is one sinner worth—Israeli, Palestinian, American, Afghan, Chinese, Sudanese, Mexican, Indian? How many earth children would God be willing to pardon and release for the exchange of His own Son? I realize the metaphor shifts and collapses the moment we introduce Calvary. But you do have to wonder, don’t you, the prisoner exchange that effected our salvation and release? The psalmist struggled over the dilemma: “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough” (Psalm 49:7, 8 NIV). How true. How could any of us possibly provide the ransom for just one sinner even in a thousand lifetimes? And yet the stunning announcement of the Good News is that God found the ransom for this rebel race within His own circle, within Himself. “And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 NKJV). That’s not 1,027 to one. Nor is it seven billion to one. It’s every human being in the history of this planet to One—“‘The Son of Man came to give His life a ransom for many’” (Mark 10:45). Very many! Because God has been into prisoner exchanges for a long time, hasn’t He? Take that Friday morning the rabble clamored for a murderer in exchange for the Innocent—and got Barabbas instead of Jesus of Nazareth. But whether it’s one for One, or billions for One, the numbers really don’t matter, do they? Love’s radical prisoner exchange is beyond comprehension.