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

 

Luke 24:26

Study the Inner Meaning

              

26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

   Study the Inner Meaning

Explanation of Luke 24      

By Rev. John Clowes M.A.

Verse 1. That the Lord's resurrection early in the morning involves in it the arising of a new Church, both in general and in particular, yea also in singular, thus that He rises again daily, yea every moment, in the minds of the regenerate.

Verses 2-4. On which occasion they who are in the affection of good and truth experience the removal of all false principles, so that Divine good and Divine truth are made manifest.

Verses 5-7. By which they are led into holy adoration, and are admonished that the Lord's Humanity was made Divine, when the hereditary principle received from the mother was separated by temptation combats.

Verses 8-12. They therefore communicate this truth to those, who had before been instructed concerning it, but as yet they cannot receive it.

Verse 12. Nevertheless they who are more principled in the doctrine of faith are led to make enquiry about it, and seeing that in the Lord all truth was made Divine Good, they are excited to adoration.

Verses 13-17. They too, who are in the doctrine of charity and faith united, reason together on the subject, and by their reasonings bring the Lord near to and present with them, though they do not know it.

Verses 17-27. By which nearness and presence they are finally instructed, that the Divine principle of the Lord led the Human principle into the most grievous temptations, and this even to the last of ability, that He might expel thence every thing that was merely human, until nothing remained but what was Divine.

Verse 27. And that all this was in agreement with what the Word teaches, since there is nothing written in theWord, which does not respect the Lord Himself, his kingdom and Church.

Verses 28-32. They therefore who are in the doctrine of charity and faith united are thus excited to cleave to the Lord with more earnest affection, by virtue of which affection they obtain conjunction with him, and by that conjunction are instructed in the good and truth of faith, by which the Lord makes himself manifest.

Verses 32-36. On which occasion, recollecting the warmth of heavenly love which has been inspired by the Lord's presence, they testify the doctrine of the Lord's glorification to those, who had before received the doctrine of good and truth.

Verses 36-44. So that these latter also are made sensible of the Lord's presence, which is attended with alarm and perplexity, until they are instructed, that the Lord made the very corporeal principle in Himself Divine, both as to its sensual and recipient principles.

Verse 44. And that this was in agreement with the Word throughout, since the things contained in the internal sense are all written of Him, for hence is the sanctity of the Word.

Verses 45-47. Their understandings thus become enlightened by the light of Divine Truth, which teaches, that the Lord by temptation-combats subdued the hells, and glorified His Humanity, and that all obtain remission of sins, who do the work of repentance and believe in Him.

Verses 48-49. They are therefore ordained to testify these things, as soon as the light of Divine Truth in their minds becomes conjoined with the love of Divine Good.

Verses 50-53. For which purpose they receive Divine benediction, and by that benediction are convinced of the glorification of the Lord's Humanity, through its oneness with Divinity, and that this glorified Humanity is the only proper object of worship, because it is the only source of all good and truth in the Church.

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 2816, 4735, 5045, 8427, 9429, 10026, 10053, ...

Doctrine of the Lord 11, 13, 35

True Christian Religion 128, 262

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 294


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 806

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



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Bible Word Meanings

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enter
All changes of place in the Bible represent changes in spiritual state. “Entering” – usually used as entering someone’s house or “going in unto” someone...

glory
Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving (Rev. 7.) signify divine spiritual things of the Lord.

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The Spiritual Battles of Jesus Christ - Swedenborg and Life

Jesus’ inner struggles are documented in the Bible. Do they contain hidden spiritual messages we can all learn from? In this episode, host Curtis Childs guides us through 18th-century mystic Emanuel Swedenborg’s recorded explorations of the Divine to see if they can help bring the spiritual truths of Jesus’ internal battles to the surface.

Resources for parents and teachers

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A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
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 Prayers for Teens: I Am With You Always
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 Quotes: Joy Comes in the Morning
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To break bread and share it with someone is to communicate--to share what is good. And to eat the bread that is offered is to make this good part of oneself.
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 The Resurrected Lord
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 The Sorrow and the Joy of Easter
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A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Walk to Emmaus
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 The Walk to Emmaus
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

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Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
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