We’ve been looking at how Jesus is the Passover Lamb. In part one, I showed the connection between Israel’s deliverance from their slavery in Egypt and our freedom from sin in Christ. Today, we’ll look at how we might understand Jesus as our ransom and how He purchased our freedom as the Passover Lamb.
Does a ransom have to be paid to someone else?
The New Testament also says that Jesus is our ransom. Doesn’t that suggest that someone had to be paid (e.g., God)? I looked at this question in detail in “Saving Easter – Part Three” so I won’t go through it all again here. I will review this one point.
In the New Testament, we find the Greek word for ransom, λύτρον (lytron), in two places (Matt.20:28; Mark 10:45); its close cousin, ἀντίλυτρον (antilytron) in one place (1 Tim.2:6). Here’s Mark 10:45 [brackets added]:
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom [lytron] for many.” (Mark 10:45 *)
How would the apostles and first century Christians have understood Jesus’ use of the word “ransom?” To let the Bible interpret the Bible, we need to use their Bible, the Greek Septuagint (LXX), and then we need to find the word, lytron. We also need to find it used in the context of an Old Testament type for what Jesus was talking about.
6 Go, speak to the children of Israel, saying, I [am] the Lord; and I will lead you forth from the tyranny of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from bondage, and I will ransom you with a high arm, and great judgment. (Exod.6:6 LXX *)
The word translated “redeem” in our modern Bible is translated “ransom” in the Septuagint, being that it’s a form of the Greek word lytron (λυτρόω, or lytróō), which is the same word used in Mark 10:45.
Then we must ask, did God have to pay Pharaoh in order to deliver His people out of slavery in Egypt? Of course not. Actually, the Egyptians gave the Israelites all kinds of silver and gold so they would get out of town!
Furthermore, Jesus simply forgave people during His earthly ministry with no payment required. In this context, we can reasonably conclude that the Bible soteriologically interprets ransom as a rescue or deliverance with no payment in view.
What kind of sacrifice?
To be clear, Jesus did purchase us with His blood. But He didn’t pay God…or anyone else. What it means is that Jesus sacrificed His own life in order for us to be with Him. “Purchase” is a figure of speech. It would be like saying that soldiers fighting in a war “purchased our freedom” with their own blood. They didn’t literally pay anyone. They sacrificed their lives so we could be free (John 15:13).
It wasn’t a trial, it was a rescue mission!
Since the Reformation, the courtroom motif has been a popular way to describe the atonement, however this isn’t the picture the Gospels paint for us. Taking the idea of ransom being a rescue without payment to someone else, let’s take a fresh look at Mark 10:45. Perhaps this will shed new light on how the apostles would’ve understood Jesus here. I’ve replaced “ransom” (lytron) with the word rescue:
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give His life a rescue for many.” *
Like Israel out of Egypt, we’ve been delivered by the Lamb of God from “this world” (Egypt), not because God demanded payment, but because He loved us so much He couldn’t stand to see us in bondage. Christ Himself is our freedom (John 8:34-36; 14:6).
So the Lamb of God took away the sin of the world , not like the animal sacrifices that God never really wanted in the first place, and especially not to appease an angry God! He offered Himself, completely, becoming obedient even to the point of death (Phil.2:8; Heb.10:5-10), triumphing over principalities and powers, publicly exposing their evil construct called “this world,” defeating even hell and death itself! (Col.2:15; Heb.2:14-15). And like with the first Passover, we’re now saved by faith in Jesus’ blood shed for us.
As N.T. Wright said in the clip I shared in “Jesus Christ: Savior of the world – Part Seven,” we’re set free so that we may reflect the light of His glory in this world as His royal priesthood, purging out the old leaven, that we may be a new lump” (1 Cor.5:7), proving God’s good and perfect will (Rom.12:2) for all mankind and bringing His kingdom on the earth.
9 They were singing a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals
because you were killed,
and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation.
10 You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev.5:9-10 NET *)