To be a Ransom for Many - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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To be a Ransom for Many


Jesus died - To Be a Ransom for Many

Reading:  Mk.10:32-52

Mk.10:45 "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Jesus' death and resurrection are central truths in the Christian faith and without them there would be no Christianity worthy of the name. But how well do we really understand of our Saviour? Why did he have to die? What was he hoping to achieve?

Well, we're taking time these Sunday evenings to look in detail at this whole matter. It is not because we have no idea at all about why Jesus died that we are doing this; we probably all do have a certain understanding and what we believe may quite well be right and true. We are doing so because the subject matter is both vitally important and much deeper and richer than perhaps any of us can imagine.

So far we have looked at several aspects of the death of Christ. We have considered the following reasons found in the Bible for his death:

  • To Turn Aside the Wrath of God

  • To Please His Heavenly Father

  • To Learn Obedience and Be Perfected

  • To Achieve His Own Resurrection from the Dead

  • To Show how much God Loves Sinners

  • To Show His Own Love for Us

  • To Cancel the Legal Demands of the Law Against Us

This evening we move and shifting our focus just a little we are going to consider his death in terms of a paying a ransom.

Our starting text is found in Mark's gospel and contains words that Jesus himself spoke. This is what he said:

Mk.10:45 "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

The first thing we have to do is to know make sure we understand what Jesus was talking about.

The title Son of Man was his favourite way of referring to himself – so Jesus in this verse is not talking about someone else but he is explaining why he came.

He then went on to explain that his coming was not motivated by self-interest: he didn't come in order that others might serve him which would have been completely understandable given who he was, what his status was and from where he came but, no, instead he came in order to serve others. Now throughout his life he did just that – we read of him going about doing good, we read of his love and compassion as he performed miracles and as he taught a people who were like sheep without a shepherd. But here he doesn't dwell on those aspects of the service he rendered to others he mentions the culmination, the climax, the greatest act of his service – he refers to the giving of his life. And in speaking of given his life as a ransom he has in mind the ultimate sacrifice, of death itself for many.

The thought is a precious one and one that was taken up by subsequent NT authors. For example, the apostle Paul wrote:

1Tim.2:5-6a "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all,"

Now we are all familiar to some degree with the idea of ransoms and mediators. The words are not at all limited to the sphere of religious vocabulary but are a present reality for many, many folk in the 21 st century. We know all about kidnappings with men and women being taken captive and then a communication arrives demanding a ransom payment to be made – this is normally accompanied by a sinister 'or else' either expressed or simply implied.

The payment of a ransom is designed to secure the release of the one held in captivity against his will. The payment of this ransom is presented as the only way in which the captive might regain his/her liberty.

Who is paid?
We might be tempted to imagine that we are held captive by Satan and that he is the one who receives a payment in order that we might be set free. Satan would like us to think so because that would pander to his pride: how he would like to be able to flaunt and say that the Son of Man struck a bargain with him and agreed to pay the sum demanded!

But when we turn to the pages of the Bible we don't find anything that even hints at a price being paid to Satan – certainly the cross is in no way portrayed as a being the result of some deal having been struck between Jesus and the devil. Rather when we turn to discover the Bible's view of the cross as it relates to Satan we discover that the cross represents Jesus' total triumph over his enemy and not anything less than that!

So when we consider Jesus' death as the payment of a ransom we must look elsewhere for a recipient. What help do we find in the Bible in answering this question?
Paul's letter to the Ephesians is a good place to begin. There we read:

Eph.5:2 "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Here we discover that in his love Christ gave himself up for us. His self-giving is further described as being both a fragrant offering and a sacrifice – Paul is thinking about Jesus' death. But for us the part of the verse that is relevant to our thinking this evening is the very end: "to God". Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice to God. Jesus died in order to be the ransom price demanded for our liberation for our being set free and the price was paid not to Satan but to God!

And this is in complete harmony with Scripture. The debt that stands against us is owed not to Satan but to God himself. We have not come short of Satan's standards but we have all fallen short of God's – as Paul wrote to the Romans:

Rom.3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"

And so we are held captive, like a prisoner who is remanded in custody while awaiting his trial. We are not free and need to have our ransom paid for us. We are not to imagine that we owe Satan anything or that he has certain rights to us – he has no such rights, he forfeited everything he had when he rebelled against Almighty God and was cast out of heaven.

To what then are we to compare our relation to Satan we  might ask – for now you tell me that no price is to be paid to him for my release yet I still feel his evil influence?
I think that it might help us to think of the matter in this way:

Yes, we are held captive and we can't free ourselves but we are held captive by God, he has taken hold of us because of our sin and holds us pending judgement. He has placed in a great prison alongside other folk held captive just like us and in that same prison he has placed Satan too. In our prisons there is often a hierarchy that is respected amongst prisoners – some particularly influential prisoner lords it over others in the same prison making them bow to his will.

It may be he is the head of some criminal gang whose reach is long and through fear of reprisals he succeeds in dominating others. It may be because he himself is particularly physically strong and cruel and so cows the others into submission. Or it may be that his is rich and able to buy the support of other prisoners who are happy at his bidding to oblige others to do what their boss wants. The influence is real and nasty but there is nothing inherently right or just about it all.

I wonder whether you know the Ronnie Barker's TV series "Porridge". In that series there was a character known as Harry Grout or Grouty. He was feared by all the prisoners, even Fletcher would wince in terror whenever he was summoned to Grouty's cell. If crossed, Grouty has little hesitation in setting one of his various heavies on those who displease him. The role Satan plays is that of a Harry Grout.

Now if judgement were passed upon a criminal held in custody and the result was a fine – the fee (the equivalent of our ransom payment) would have to be paid to the appropriate lawful authorities, no-one would expect to be released for paying that fine with a cheque made out to Mr Grout inside the prison!

Jesus offered his life as that fragrant offering and sacrifice to God – that was the price of our ransom and he died in order to pay it.

Jesus' life was full to the brim with wonderful merit – he had never done anything else than fully please his Heavenly Father who openly declared from heaven his unreserved approval of his Son. But it wasn't just this life that Jesus offered as the ransom price of our liberation: it was this wonderful life laid down in sacrifice that secured our deliverance.

No-one forced Jesus to do so, the Father asked the Son to do it and the Son was willing to do what his Father wanted even though he was in no doubt that he could have called upon the support of myriads of angels to free him from the path of suffering. He chose freely, out of love for his Father and out of love for us, to present his own body as a sacrifice of substitution whereby he paid all that could be demanded as the price of our ransom.

What a wonderful price it was that he was prepared to pay so that we might go free!

Jn.10:17+18 "I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord."

For whom did Jesus pay the ransom?
Thus far we have looked briefly at what a ransom is in general terms. We have also seen more specifically what the ransom price was that Jesus paid when he died upon the cross of Calvary; we noted further that this was a price he freely and willingly paid – no-one extorted it from him or forced him to pay up. We have also considered to whom the ransom price was paid.

Now finally it is time for us to reflect a little on the question – Who is actually ransomed?

Our text adds this piece of information for us:

Mk.10:45 "as a ransom for many"

So the very first thing that we can say is that many sinners will benefit from the death of the Lord Jesus. (Sinners are the ones who are held in bondage and who need to be set free from the judgement of God that hangs over them.) And Jesus leaves us in no doubt – his offering of himself as a sacrifice to God will prove to be effective for many.

Many indicates a number of things:

  • It indicates more than a few. Sometimes when we look out at our own country today we can become a little despondent – there don't seem to be many at all. Yet here is Jesus own word – he came to give his life as a ransom for many.

This number then must be a large number – it will include some from every tribe and tongue and nation. It will include people throughout the running centuries of Christian history. In heaven we are told that this number will indeed be so great that no man will be able to number it. Heaven will be well-populated with those who have been ransomed by the Lord Jesus Christ. We don't need to worry about the company there – there will be plenty of it and the Lamb will be all the glory of Immanuel’s land.

Paul in his letter to Timothy also suggested that the number ransomed would be large.

He wrote:

1Tim.2:5-6a "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all,"

This is Paul a Christian writing to Timothy a Christian and talking about the effectiveness of Christ's giving of himself as a ransom for all Christians, drawn from all types of people – none of those in heaven will be there any other way than by the ransom paid by Jesus.

All will be singing off the same hymn sheet in heaven – it will be a hymn sheet that celebrates the Lord Jesus Christ and his wonderful salvation by grace. There will not be one discordant voice there singing "I did it my way" all will be rejoicing that "the Lamb in the midst of the throne is their shepherd and he guides them to springs of living water. At that time God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!

But many also means something else too. Many means not all indiscriminately.

There is no deficiency in the value of the ransom price paid by Christ – we are not to imagine for one moment that the value of his incredible sacrifice was limited to only a certain number of individuals and when that number was exhausted no more could be saved even though they might desperately want to be saved. No, Christ's sacrifice is sufficient to ransom all those whom God has chosen to ransom, all those who consequently come to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith.

I must press you one more time this evening because I cannot read your hearts – has Jesus Christ ransomed you? Has the debt been paid for you? Have you been set free? You will know that it has if you have seriously and earnestly gone to him pleading with him to save you. I don't overmind which form of words you have used – becoming a Christian is not a matter of merely muttering a few formulaic words on a piece of paper. Becoming a Christian involves the Holy Spirit quickening you and drawing you to Christ. It means you have personal dealings with God through faith in Christ. What do you know of this?

Oh come to Jesus Christ. Ask God for mercy and ask him for that certainty that Jesus death has indeed paid for you ransom.

And then, go your way rejoicing! Serve Jesus Christ with joy in your heart!

To God be the Glory.

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