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 16:10

Study the Inner Meaning

              

10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;

   Study the Inner Meaning

Explanation of John 16      

By Rev. John Clowes M.A.

Explaining the Inner Meaning of John 16

Verses 16:1, 2, 3. That through the power of divine truth there is protection in the time of persecution, when worship shall become merely external, through the extinction of all heavenly good and truth, resulting from the non-acknowledgement of the divinity of the Lord's humanity.

Verses 16:4, 5, 6. Which things are manifested to the understanding, to the intent that they may affect the will and love, and be thus acknowledged to be of divine prediction, in relation to a future state of the church, when the divine operation was no longer to be external, or by truth, but internal, or by good, of which state they, who are principled in truth, are not yet aware.

Verses 16:7, 8. For truth, in its external manifestation, must apparently be taken away, to the intent that it may be received again internally, and by such internal manifestation may remove from man the powers of evil and error, and establish in him the heavenly powers of good and truth.

Verses 16:9, 10, 11. All which evil and error result from the non-acknowledgement of the Lord's Divine Humanity, whilst the glorification of this humanity, together with the subjugation of the powers of darkness, constitute the all of good and of truth.

Verses 16:12, 13. Therefore a limit is set to the instruction of truth externally, but not to the reception of truth internally, because internal truth is in connection with divine good and truth, and thus leads man to depend on the Lord in all states of life.

Verses 16:14, 15, 16. For internal truth is the operation of the Lord's Divine Humanity, and thus the medium of communication with the divine truth in its union with the divine good, and therefore it succeeds the external manifestation of truth.

Verses 16:17, 18, 19, 20. This doctrine however, is with difficulty apprehended by those who receive truth only externally, until they are instructed that the external reception of truth leads man into spiritual temptations, and that by those temptations his state is inverted, and he is thus led to receive truth internally, or in its connection with the divine truth.

Verses 16:21, 22. For every state of spiritual temptation is attended with trouble, but when the temptation is past, the trouble is succeeded by joy, through the manifestation and operation of the divine truth.

Verses 16:23, 24. On which occasion, the guidance of external truth is no longer sought for, but the guidance of internal truth in connection with the Lord's Divine Humanity, which alone brings fullness of satisfaction.

Verses 16:25, 26, 27. Therefore the instruction of external truth must precede, and be succeeded by that which is internal, in which case the Lord in his Divine Humanity will be exalted as the supreme object of worship, who from mercy intercedes for all, and conjoins himself to all, who from love acknowledge him in that Humanity as the manifested Jehovah.

Verses 16:28, 29, 30. For the divine principle itself assumed the human, and became a man, and afterwards united the human essence to the divine, thus convincing, by the light of internal truth, all who are willing to be convinced, that the human essence of the Lord is divine.

Verses 16:31, 32, 33. Nevertheless the loves of self and of the world will operate to obscure this truth even with the well disposed, and therefore all such are instructed, that the acknowledgement of this truth leads to conjunction of life with the Lord, and that therefore whatever of temptation may arise from the above evil loves, they ought the more to confide in the Lord, who has subdued all infernal evils and falsities.

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 2235, 3736

Apocalypse Revealed 668

Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 85

True Christian Religion 51


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 518, 852

Canons of the New Church 43

De Domino 12

Spiritual Experiences 509

Marriage 51

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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.


 Entering the Narrow Way
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Article | Ages 15 - 17


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