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God’s Word for You

Mark 10:45 A Ransom for Many

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, April 3, 2021

45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This statement and other statements like it occur in the Gospels (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45; Luke 21:28; John 3:16) and in the Epistles (1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 9:15). The word “ransom” in Greek is lytron, and a form of this word has been found even in inscriptions (such as one on the island of Cos) recording the sacred redemption of slaves from captivity in connection with a religious significance. That was a pagan Greek understanding. Here, Jesus means very simply and literally that the reason he came into the world was to give up his physical life as a ransom payment for all mankind.

A regular ransom takes place when someone has something of value. “A man’s riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat” (Proverbs 13:8). But to ransom a man from the debt of his sin? “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—that he should live on forever and not see decay” (Psalm 49:7-9). But Jesus is no mere man. He uses his title, “the Son of Man,” to show that he is fully God as well as fully human. Every part of Jesus is a human man, the son of his mother Mary, but he is filled up in every way and in every sense with his Godhood as well, so that he is both truly God and truly man. And as such, as the God-man, he was able to lay down his life for all. This is our ransom, our redemption.

Our redemption can be described as having two causes: a prompting cause and a meritorious cause.

The prompting cause is the ‘why’ of redemption. The Bible is clear that God rescued us because of something in him, not because of something in us. Paul explains this perfectly: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We don’t contribute to our salvation in any way, so it’s a mistake to say that we respond to God’s “initial grace” or that we merit anything for ourselves or others, otherwise we make Paul, Jesus, and all the authors of the Bible into liars. The ‘why’ of redemption is God’s grace alone, the love he has for us that we don’t deserve at all.

The meritorious cause is the ‘how’ of redemption. We return to Paul once again to explain how man is incapable of accomplishing anything toward his salvation: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19). This was Paul the Christian convert, Paul the called servant of Christ (Romans 1:1), who concluded that he was incapable on his own of anything but the sin living in him. The only conclusion we can reach about our status before God is that we deserve the punishment of hell forever. So the ‘how’ of our redemption had to come from somewhere else, someone else, and that someone was the sinless Son of God. “The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

Now, what about our faith? Doesn’t our faith play a part in our salvation? Consider carefully how the Bible describes faith. The message of redemption (the Gospel) causes and creates faith, it is not faith that causes or accomplishes our redemption. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). So the ‘how’ of redemption remains entirely in Christ and not in man. This means that you and I never need to wonder whether we have done enough for our salvation. It was done for us by Jesus.

On the Saturday of Holy Week, we remember Jesus’ body, buried in the tomb, dead. His death paid the price for our sins. We rejoice of course on Easter because of his resurrection and what that means for our own resurrection on the Last Day, but don’t forget the importance of Saturday, the day he rested from all his work of redeeming us just as once he rested from all his work of creating us (Genesis 2:2). The Sabbath rest in the tomb proves his work was complete. The resurrection on the third day proves that his work was accepted by the Father. Rejoice in the work of our Lord Jesus. Rejoice in the why of our redemption and the how of our redemption. Because of Jesus and through Jesus, we have everlasting, eternal, and unending life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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