Commentary

 

A Ransom for Many - What can that mean?

     

By New Christian Bible Study Staff

A Ransom for Many - What can that mean?

Almost 2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth -- Jesus Christ -- was crucified. He died. Painfully. And then, by the second morning after that, He was risen from the dead. His physical body was gone - or, rather, in light of subsequent events, it seems to have been transformed into a spiritual one. (That's an interesting thing to think through, in itself, but it's not the focus of this article.)

Instead, here we want to focus on some of the things that are said in the Bible about why Jesus died. There's an almost-2000-year-old confusion about it. Let's dig into it...

In Mark 10:42-45 (and in Matthew 20:25-28), we find this well-known lesson, which occurs late in Jesus's ministry. James and John - still not really understanding the depth of what was going on, were lobbying Jesus for promises of sitting at His left and right hand when he was "king". The other disciples were displeased, of course. Jesus knows what's going on, so He gathers them all, and tries to explain the real nature of His mission, and what their mission should be, too.

Here's the text:

"But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

A ransom. The Greek word used here is λύτρον, or lutron, which means the price for redeeming or ransoming, from λύω, luo, for loosening, untying, or setting free.

Some theologians have taken this text, and combined it with the text from the crucifixion story, when Jesus says three things that show his distress, and his feeling of separation from his Divine essence -- "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?", and "Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done", and "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

It can certainly be interpreted as a sort of sacrifice, in which Jesus acts as a sort of scapegoat, substituting his death for the human race that had disappointed His Father. Some theologians have done that. Anselm of Canterbury, in around 1000 AD, was one of the leaders of a faction that made that argument. But we don't think that's the right track; in fact, we think it was a wrong track that's been pretty damaging.

In New Christian theology, it doesn't make sense that God was angry. He's love itself. Is He disappointed when we don't reciprocate His love? Sure. But angry? No. There's certainly the appearance of it, especially in the Old Testament at times, but the core nature of God is love.

What's more, it should be even clearer that the death of Jesus's physical body wouldn't make God the Father feel better. Remember, they are really ONE person, of one mind - not two.

Instead, the whole cycle of God's incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection was undertaken so that new truths could reach humankind.

In Arcana Coelestia 1419,

"The Lord, being love itself, or the essence and life of the love of all in the heavens, wills to give to the human race all things that are His; which is signified by His saying that the Son of man came to give His life a ransom for many."

In Apocalypse Explained 328:15, we find this explanation:

“The phrase ‘to ransom’ means to free people from falsities and reform them by means of truths. This is signified by the words, ‘Ransom [redeem] me, O Jehovah, God of truth’” (Psalm 31:5)

One reason Jesus died was to overcome the power of hell. Jesus fought against evil spirits throughout His life. The clearest description of this is just after his baptism, when he spends 40 days in the wilderness. His suffering on the cross was the final struggle against evil, and His resurrection was his final victory over it.

For every person, overcoming evil involves temptation or a struggle against evil. As we struggle against evil individually, Christ struggled against evil on a cosmic scale. His death was the conclusion of that struggle, but it wasn't a loss; it was a win. The Bible says that God took on flesh and blood so that “through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14,15)

Another reason that Bible gives for Jesus’ death was that He might unite His human nature with His Divine nature, so that He could “make in Himself, of two, one new man,” (Ephesians 2:14-16, cf. John 17:11, 21; 10:30).

There are other reasons mentioned, too:

He could "go to the Father" (John 13:3; 14:2, 28; 16:10).
He could be "glorified" (John 17:1,5) or "enter into His glory" (Luke 24:26).
He could be "perfected" (Luke 13:32), or "sanctified" (John 17:19).

In Swedenborg's True Christianity 86, it says,

"Jehovah God came into the world as divine truth for the purpose of redeeming people. Redemption was a matter of gaining control of the hells, restructuring the heavens, and then establishing a church."

At the crucifixion, the forces of evil thought they had won. The religious and civic powers of the day led the way in condemning him. He was mocked. The crowd turned against him.

The death of Jesus' physical body was a "ransom" in this way: by undergoing that torture and death, He could then show that his spiritual power transcended natural death. He freed us, loosened us, from domination by the hells, and established a new church -- a new way that we can follow.

The Bible

 

John 14:2

Study the Inner Meaning

              

2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Explanation of John 14      

By Rev. John Clowes M.A.

Explaining the Inner Meaning of John 14

Verse 14:1. The Word teaches, that man ought to look inwards towards the Lord in his Divine Humanity, for a refuge against evils.

Verse 14:2. And to believe that heaven is distinguished into in numerable societies, according to all the discriminations of good and truth, and that every one has a place there, according to the conjunction of those principles in his mind and life.

Verse 14:3. And to believe further, that according to the conjunction of those principles in the mind and life, every man has eternal conjunction of life with the Lord himself.

Verses 14:4, 5. Because according to the conjunction of those principles, every one has knowledge concerning the glorification of the Lord's humanity, and the process by which it was effected, although this knowledge seems to be concealed from him.

Verse 14:6. For in that glorification, and the process by which it was effected, is contained the all of doctrine, together with its truth and life, by which alone introduction is given to the supreme good.

Verse 14:7. Consequently the knowledge of the Lord in His Divine Humanity involves in it the knowledge of his essential divinity, and therefore faith in the visible humanity renders the divinity visible at the same time.

Verse 14:8. This reasoning however seems obscure to those in the church, who are principled in the intelligence of truth, and therefore they seek further instruction concerning the hidden divinity.

Verses 14:9, 10, 11. And are further taught, that whoever had faith in the visible Divine Humanity, has faith also in the invisible Divinity, since the Divinity and Humanity are mutually and reciprocally united, like soul and body, so that the humanity both thinks and operates from the divinity which is one with it.

Verse 14:12. Whosoever also has faith in the visible Divine Humanity, operates not only from truth in the understanding, but from the good of love and charity in the will, through the power supplied from that humanity made divine.

Verses 14:13, 14. And thus, inasmuch as he addresses himself immediately to the Lord in His Divine Humanity, all His prayers are granted, because the divinity is one with that humanity.

Verses 14:15, 16, and part of 17. He is also instructed that to love the Lord is to live according to His divine precepts, in which case the Lord in His Divine Humanity imparts all heavenly good and truth, and this to eternity.

Verses latter part of 17, 18. Which good and truth cannot be received by those who are in evil, but by those who are principled in faith and love, and who consequently have good and truth continually communicated to them from the Lord in His Divine Humanity.

Verses 14:19, 20. So that whereas they, who are in evil, have no faith in the Lord, they on the other hand, who are principled in faith and love, enjoy his continual presence, as a fountain of truth in their understandings, and of heavenly love in their wills, and thus have reciprocal conjunction of life with Him.

Verses 14:21, 22, 23, 24. For to love the Lord is to live according to His precepts, and they who so love are loved in return by the Lord, who dwells in His own Word in the interiors of such, and thus makes them the everlasting habitations of His truth and love.

Verses 14:25, 26, 27. Instructing them first by the letter of His Word, and afterwards by its spirit, or spiritual sense, in which is contained the all of truth and good, thus the all of internal peace, by which power is given over all spiritual temptations.

Verses 14:28, 29. And instructing them further, that true charity rejoices in the idea of the Lord's glorification, or of the union of divine truth with divine good, since truth derives from good all that it has, or is, and all proper faith results from the accomplishment of their predicted union.

Verses 14:30, 31. Nevertheless the union cannot be accomplished without temptation combats arising from the powers of darkness, by virtue of which the divine love of the Lord is manifested in all its fullness and purity, calling mankind to elevation of their affections by departing from all contrary love.

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 644, 4225, 9199, 9305

Heaven and Hell 51


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 220, 731

Spiritual Experiences 262, 4675

Bible Word Meanings

mansions
'Mansions,' as in Genesis 6:14, signify the two parts of a person which are the will and understanding. 'Mansions,' as in lowest, secondary, and third,...

go
In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

prepare
In general, when something is "prepared" in the Bible it means that it is in the proper spiritual order, which happens when our hearts and...

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The videos shown here are provided courtesy of our friends at the Swedenborg Foundation. You can find out more about them here: swedenborg.com.


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Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Believe
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Homes That Angels Live In
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 How to Love the Lord
It is by keeping the commandments that people can truly love the Lord.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Imagine the Lord's Joy!
 Picture the Lord's joy each time we take a step toward heaven. 
Activity | Ages over 15

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Small poster illustration a quotation from the Word.
Picture | Ages over 8

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Worship Talk | Ages 15 - 17

 Memory Verse: Jacob's Ladder
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Memory Verse: Love Me Keep My Commandments
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Memory Verse: The Lord Our God
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

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 Quotes: The Lord Our God
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: The Word of God
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

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 The God We Worship
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 The Lord God Jesus Christ
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This family talk explains what the Lord's rod and staff are in our lives, and how He uses them to comfort us. 
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 The Way, the Truth, the Life
Jesus' discourse on the way, the truth and the life is the first part of a farewell address to His disciples in which He charges them to believe in Him and keep His commandments.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Way to Heaven
The Lord has prepared a special place in heaven for everyone, and His Word shows us the way that leads there.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Word Made Flesh
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Where Heaven Is
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14


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