even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:28 ESV)
A ransom is money that is demanded in exchange for the release of a prisoner. For example, the United States of America has a long-standing policy of not negotiating with the ransom demands of terrorists. The US will not pay for a prisoner to be released.
This is often how terrorist organizations fund much of their efforts. They kidnap people with the intention of demanding millions of dollars for their release.
From the perspective of the US government, a definitive and unwavering policy of refusing to pay ransoms protects Americans. If the terrorists know that the US will not pay a ransom they are less likely to kidnap Americans in the first place. If, on the other hand, the US paid millions of dollars to meet the demands of a ransom every time an American was kidnapped, then we would actually be encouraging the enemy to kidnap Americans as a means of raising money.
So, if this is what our modern day notions of ransoms are all about, then what does the Bible mean when it says Jesus gave his life as a ransom?
After Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God made the consequences of sin clear - they would now die; not just a physical death but a spiritual death. Romans 6:23 makes this clear, "the wages of sin are death." Because of our sin, we are all under an eternal death sentence from God the Father; not because he is cruel but because he is just. He will not and cannot let sin go unpunished; to do so would make him unjust.
God, however, was willing to make a way for us to be freed from our death sentence by allowing his son to die in our place. He was willing to accept the life of Jesus as a ransom that would free us from the eternal judgment we deserved. Matthew 20:28 says this is why Jesus came to earth. He came to serve us by paying a ransom with his own life that we might be free from our death sentence.
It is fair to say that Jesus came to die. He came to pay a ransom and Jesus knew the only ransom that could save God's people would be his own death in the place of God's people. Yet, he was willing to come as a man to die, anyway.
Because Jesus is our ransom, we are free from the demands of the Law. His ransom eternally satisfied the demands of God the Father. We don't don't need to worry about God demanding more. He is perfectly satisfied with the ransom of his sacrificial Son.
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