The Biggest Ransom in History

In AD 1190, King Richard the Lionhearted of England was sailing back from the Crusades when bad weather forced him to land in the unfriendly territory of Austria. King Richard and his men decided to travel by land back to England. But they couldn’t just travel as a king’s caravan. So they disguised themselves as the Knights Templar so they could sneak their way back, posing as religious pilgrims.

But their disguise wasn’t enough to protect them. While passing through Vienna, King Richard was identified and taken captive—all because he insisted on eating roasted chicken for dinner and wearing his fancy rings (some disguise). So he was put in chains and forced to live as a slave.

The Duke of Austria wanted to send England back their king, but he wanted some money for his troubles. So he set what was—and still is, today—the most expensive ransom of a person in history: $3.3 billion in today’s money. And England paid it.

The first time I read that story, my first thought was, “Would I ever be worth that high a price to someone?” I’m certain the United States wouldn’t think so. My family might wish to pay that, but they wouldn’t be able to.

Yet God paid infinitely more than that for every one of us.

When we came to Jesus, we weren’t particularly strategic to him—not like King Richard. It makes sense to pay through the nose to get your king back. But you and I weren’t kings to God. Before he chose us, we were his enemies. If you think dropping billions of dollars for your king is wild, imagine doing that for your enemy!

But that’s precisely what God did. Though we were far less valuable to him, and far more antagonistic toward him, God paid the fullness of our ransom price without a second thought. The price was much higher than billions of dollars: It was the cost of his own life. We are redeemed, Peter said, with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish and without spot.

Why would he do it? So that he could transform his enemies into his sons and daughters. Because it may be impressive to pay a huge ransom for your hero. But it’s truly glorious to pay a ransom to redeem those who rebelled against you. God redeemed us—paid our ransom—because it brings him glory upon glory.

And like King Richard, we aren’t just redeemed to be set free. We’re redeemed for a purpose. The people of England wanted Richard back so that he could be their king again. They had a job for him to do; they were willing to pay the big redemption price so he could get back to it. So it is with us in God’s kingdom: We aren’t only saved from sin, but for good works. God pays the huge redemption price so we can get on to the tasks he has for us.

God brought us back to himself, not only with an incalculable price, but for an eternal purpose. We were bought to belong to him, to reflect his glory, to bring his light to the nations, and to be his instrument of blessing.

That’s the purpose behind your redemption—the biggest ransom ever paid.