The lesson of the American Revolutionary War is that human beings want to be free and they will endure a great deal of suffering if suffering is the price of freedom.
The founding of Christianity also cost a great deal of suffering, and that suffering purchased freedom for all people. The American Revolution set British colonists free from oppression by a tyrannical king. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ set all people free from the oppression of a tyrannical demon.
Peter, an eyewitness to the work of Jesus during his ministry, described Jesus’ work as ‘healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” (Acts 10:38). He lumped together the sick, the lame, the deaf and the demon-possessed in a single group – those who were oppressed by the devil. Peter saw the devil behind all human suffering, with good reason, because human suffering only began when humans were cast out of the Garden of Eden after Satan successfully lured them to reject God.
Suffering of any kind narrows people’s horizons. Anyone who has had any serious illness knows that it can be a major task simply to drink a sip of water. The same thing happens when people are overburdened with stress or fear. You might get up one morning and feel that anything is possible, only to discover that someone else was given the promotion you worked toward for three years, and suddenly your world closes in and feels very small and dark. This is the way people feel when evil imprisons and oppresses them.
The message of Easter is that Christ’s death and resurrection set people free from that imprisonment. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, Jesus told us that evil will always be part of the world, but in Christ, we can be set free from its oppressive power.
When Peter went to visit Cornelius he told the people gathered there what Christ had done. Peter told them about Christ’s death and resurrection, and as he was explaining that he and many others had shared meals with the risen Christ, the Holy Spirit fell on the whole group. Peter said simply, “everyone who believes in [Christ] receives forgiveness of sins through his name.´ (Acts 10:42) Forgiveness of sin is the experience of being set free from the oppression of the devil.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he could only heal those he could reach. He was God incarnate, and in that incarnation, he did not reach out to everyone. However, the resurrected Christ is available to all. The risen Christ is the promise to everyone that God wants us to be free. When we enter into a relationship with Christ through baptism, we are released from the prison of sin and our world becomes spacious. God created each person with gifts for service and fulfillment. When we belong to Christ we are set free from Satan’s constraints that suppress our achievements and our fulfillment. Free from Satan’s power, we can become all that God had in mind for us.
This is true freedom.