This week, some of the world’s media called it the most unfair prisoner exchange in history! What they were referring to was the release of a young Jewish soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was taken hostage by Hamas on the 25 June 2006, over five years ago. After years of negotiation Gilad Shilat has been freed in exchange for over a thousand Palestinian prisoners, many of whom had been convicted of serious terrorist crimes. No wonder the media referred to the exchange as being so unfair!
The nation of Israel is surrounded by hostile nations. In order to protect their people, most parents have to send their sons and daughters as conscripts to serve in the army. Gilad Shalit was nineteen when he was captured and his long incarceration was something with which all Israelis could identify, regardless of their other differences. His freedom has been high on the wish list of every Israeli and every Israeli leader since the day of his capture. They wanted him back and there was great rejoicing when he arrived home. But, in spite of the vast difference in numbers of prisoners released on the two sides of the conflict, I believe the media were so very wrong when they called it the most unfair prisoner exchange in history! Let me explain.
As I watched the TV coverage of Gilad Shalit’s release, my mind went back to an earlier prisoner exchange that also took place In Israel, when another convicted terrorist was released in exchange for an innocent prisoner! The terrorist’s name was Barabbas, the name of the innocent prisoner was Jesus. In this case the innocent prisoner was retained in custody and received the sentence that undoubtedly Barabbas was destined for.
Then the innocent prisoner had to carry his own cross to the execution site, where he died a criminal’s death. But here, at Calvary, an even greater exchange took place. It wasn’t the exchange of one life for another, as it had been with Barabbas, it was much more than that. For, ever since the fall of man, the whole of humanity had been born in jail under sentence of death, and was subject to the control of the jailer! And it was from Heaven that God planned the greatest ever prisoner exchange – not just in the history of time but throughout time and eternity!
Through the fall mankind had inherited Satan’s judgment – death (Matthew 25:41). At the cross an innocent man, whose sinlessness meant that he was not subject to human death, actually chose to die so that all who chose to accept His pardon could be released from the jail of time and eternity. He took your and my place. But because death was not his inheritance, death could not hold him and on resurrection morning the plan for God’s great prisoner exchange was complete. Jesus is alive for evermore – and all who choose to accept Him (John 1:12) are also alive in Him – for time and eternity.
Yes, the exchange of over a thousand prisoners for the life of one Jew, Gilad Shalit, may have seemed like the most unfair prisoner exchange in history, but in reality it cannot even begin to be compared with the exchange that took place at Calvary when the life of another Jew, Jesus Christ, was given in exchange for the life of every person on the planet who chooses freedom from mankind’s jail!
As I saw the joy on the faces of Gilad Shalit’s family, I had a tiny glimpse of the joy there must be in Heaven over every sinner who repents! (Luke 15:10).