A Ransom for Many
I like paying bills. I may not like the size of the bills or the frequency with which they come, but it’s wonderful once they’ve actually been paid. Back in the days when bills were often paid in person, I found it especially satisfying to pass my bill across the counter with my payment and then receive it back marked “PAID.”
In these verses, Jesus references His death with the little phrase “a ransom for many.” A few Old Testament examples provide context for Jesus’ use of the word “ransom” here.
Jewish law stated that when a man’s ox killed someone, both the ox and the owner were to be put to death. However, if a ransom was imposed upon the owner, then he could pay it to redeem his life (Exodus 21:29-30). In other words, the owner of the ox could purchase his own life by paying a sum of money. The same was true of setting a relative free from servitude or releasing a field or piece of property from a mortgage (see Leviticus 25). In each case, the ransom involved a decisive and costly intervention to release someone from a form of captivity.
All of these situations in the Old Testament were material plights. What Jesus was referring to, however, was a moral predicament. We are enslaved by sin and have offended God. Jesus explained that only His decisive intervention—this costly purchase of our life—could set us free and make us whole. As the hymn writer puts it, “He took my sins and my sorrows, He made them his very own.”
Christ is our ransom. He “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” so that we may be released from our bondage when we place our trust in Him (Galatians 3:13). By His death, Jesus settled the judgment against all who believe in Him. When He cried, “It is finished,” He used the Greek word tetelestai, which was written on a bill to declare that it had been paid (John 19:30). In His Son’s resurrection, the Father provided the receipt of the payment. The debt, which was justifiably leveled against us and too great for us to pay, is now stamped unmistakably: “PAID.”
At times, the Evil One will antagonize us and our own hearts will accuse us. “Are you really forgiven? Surely this is one sin too many! Does God really love you? Do you really have a place in glory for all eternity?” When you hear these whispers, remind yourself that Christ strode up to the very bar of justice and settled the account that stood against you. The Father raised Him from the dead; therefore, you can find total security in the fact that He will never again demand payment for any of these accusations. Your account has been settled once and for all. You have been ransomed.
8See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits1 of the world, and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15He disarmed the rulers and authorities2 and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.3
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