What comes to mind when you hear the word “ransom?”
I think of a kidnapping or a hostage situation. In the movies, the kidnapper leaves a ransom note behind, releasing the hostages only after payment has been made.
This is essentially the way the word is used in Mark 10. Jesus says that He came to serve — specifically, to offer Himself up as a ransom for many.
What lengths would you go to in order to pay the ransom if someone had kidnapped one of your loved ones? I suspect you’d empty every account and borrow money from all of your friends if it meant securing the safety of your loved one. And that “do whatever it takes” feeling we get when we think about this is what prompted Jesus to give up His own life.
In ancient Greek — the language of Mark’s Gospel — the word “ransom” was often used in reference to purchasing the freedom of a slave or a prisoner of war. This fits in with our discussion last week. We noted that one way of thinking of the cross is in terms of spiritual warfare. As we said repeatedly last week, Jesus came to earth to pick a fight, to win a war. So along the same line, we see that Jesus offers Himself as a ransom to set us free — because we are spiritual prisoners of war, held captive by the devil.
So back to our original idea of a bad trade. Picture Satan with all humanity held captive by sin. And along comes Jesus — the holy, eternal Son of God. And He offers to take our place. He says, “I will pay the cost for their freedom.” This looks like a bad trade for God, doesn’t it? Jesus giving His life as a ransom for ours. But it turns out to be the best thing that’s ever happened to us, because Jesus is strong enough to break the shackles once and for all, to deal a deathblow to Death itself.
The more Satan can entice us toward sin, the further he draws us into his domain. And with each step, we become more fully enslaved to Sin.
Have you ever committed a sin and felt really, really guilty about it afterward? Of course. But then one day you realize that you’ve gone back to that sin so many times that you no longer feel much guilt. You’ve kind of gone numb to the sinful action. Isn’t it odd that we’re never satisfied with the same level of sin? We always have to have more and more and more. That’s what we’re talking about here. We become further entrenched, further enslaved in the realm of sin. Satan wants us to be caught up in his web of sin because he knows that’s his best way of enslaving us. And this is why we need to be ransomed out of the grip of Sin and Death and Satan.
Although he doesn’t use the word “ransom,” the writer of Hebrews expands this idea in Hebrews 2.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason, he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.Hebrews 2:14-18
Three key points from this text:
- Jesus shares in our humanity, even sharing in human temptation and death itself.
- But He does this in order to break Satan’s power and to free us from the fear of death.
- In light of this, He is able to help those who are being tempted today.
Even though the word “ransom” doesn’t appear in this text, the writer of Hebrews gives us a clear picture of the ransoming mission of Jesus. Jesus came to pick a fight — specifically, to break the power of the one that holds the power of death, the devil himself. At the cross, Jesus sets us free from the fear of death.
When Jesus says that He has come to give His life as a ransom for many, I believe He wants us to hear those words at a personal level. You and I are among the many. Look at the cost of our salvation:
You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.1 Peter 1:18-19
Our deliverance comes at a great cost. Jesus Himself is the price of our redemption. He ransomed us with His precious blood. That seems like a bad trade at first — but it turned out to be the best thing in the world.