In June of 1998, Ed Leonard, a 60-year-old Canadian driller, accepted a job with Terramundo Drilling to work in Colombia, South America as a drilling foreman. On June 24, seven days after he arrived in Colombia, he was taken captive by armed rebels who demanded a ransom of $500,000. Leonard’s captors, armed with automatic weapons, kept him moving throughout the Andes Mountains. Leonard bathed in frigid rivers, lived in a tent, and lost 21 pounds during the ordeal.
On October 6 of the same year, the guerrillas informed Leonard that he was going to be part of an “exchange.” That afternoon, he saw another Canadian that he had never seen before. “You must be Ed Leonard,” said Norbert Reinhart. “Your shift is over. It’s time for you to go home.”
Reinhart, 49, owner of Terramundo Drilling, was Leonard’s boss. Leonard had never seen him before because he was hired over the phone. But now this complete stranger had traded places with him so that he could go home to be with his family. Leonard told reporters, “There is no way to put it in words, when somebody basically gives his life for you.” *
Reinhart was eventually returned home safely to his family, but his willingness to “trade places” with Leonard was heroic and illustrates something that has been done for you and for me.
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). That “self-inflicted” slavery (see James 1:13-15) is universal, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). To make matters worse, this slavery leads to death (Romans 6:23) and none of us has the resources to pay the ransom price to set ourselves free.
But Jesus came to our rescue. He paid the price for our redemption with His own blood. The Apostle Peter reminded some Christians of the ransom price that was paid for them: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19). On the cross, Jesus “traded places” with us, taking the punishment for our sins upon Himself (1 Peter 2:24), so that we could be set free.
Why did He do it? Because He loves us. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Because of Jesus, we can be set free from sin and its eternal punishment if we will only accept His offer of salvation and eternal life on His terms.
God will save those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).
That exchange of His sinless life for our sin-stained lives is called GRACE. By His grace, YOU can be saved and live eternally with Him if you will only accept His offer through your obedient faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
-- David A. Sargent
* Information gleaned from “Trading Places” by William Plummer in People (posted November 30, 1998; www.people.com) and Andrew Phillips in One Word Study Guide