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TEXT: Mark 10:45
SUBJECT: The Passion of Jesus Christ #9: Ransom for Many
A couple of months ago, we began to study John Piper's little book, The Passion of Jesus Christ. The word, 'passion' here does not mean His zeal or enthusiasm for God, but His suffering and death.
The book has hardly a word on what He suffered, it's all about why He suffered. To put a finer point on it, why God wanted Him to suffer and die. Did the crucifixion break The Father's heart? It did not; it pleased Him. Because it is His way of saving the world. Was there any other possible way He could have done it? We must not speculate on what's possible with God and what isn't. But we can be sure of this: there was no better way! The cross is God's way of saving sinners, beating the devil, honoring His Son, satisfying His justice, proving His love, and more--all at the same time.
Thus far, in our reading of Piper's book, we've found seven reasons for our Lord's passion and death. Tonight, we look at an eighth-
Christ suffered and died to become a ransom for many.
The chapter is not quite two pages long, and so Piper doesn't take the space to define his term. We have the time to do it, however, and so let's be clear on what it means.
When we hear the word, 'ransom' we think.kidnappers! Criminals snatch a boy from his wealthy parents and say, 'A million dollars, or you'll never see him again'. In the 1930's the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby made headlines all over the world. Thankfully, this is crime is seldom committed in our country, but it remains big business in South America and some other places.
Is this what our Lord did? Did He pay off criminals for our salvation? No.
For in His day, 'ransom' was not paid to kidnappers, but to kings. Two armies go to war. Men on both sides are killed, but not only killed. Some are taken prisoner. Most of the prisoners are common men, of course, but others are uncommon. They're part of the nobility, the royal family, or even the king himself. What do you do with these prisoners of war? You sell them back.for a bundle!
This is what our Lord had in mind when He said that He would become a ransom for the many.
To understand the 'ransom' we have to answer four questions, the first of which is, Who gets the payment? If 'ransom' is paid to kidnappers, then the payment could only go to the devil. And, in the history of the Church some have said this. But John Piper knows better,
There is no thought in the Bible that Satan had to be paid off to let sinners be saved. What happened to Satan when Christ died was not payment, but defeat. The Son of God became human so 'that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14). There was no negotiation.
If the devil wasn't paid off at the cross, who was? Piper says,
If we ask who received the ransom, the Biblical answer would surely be God. The Bible says that Christ 'gave Himself up for us.an offering to God (Ephesians 5:2). Christ offered Himself without blemish to God (Hebrew 9:14). The whole need for a substitute to die on our behalf is because we have sinned against God and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And because of our sin the whole world is accountable to God (Romans 3:19).
The ransom was paid to God. So, is He a kidnapper snatching innocent children? No, He's the King on whom the world has made war! Some of His enemies fell in battle, but others were taken prisoner. The captives, instead of being shot or put to work in labor camps, were set free because a ransom was paid for them!
'Ransom' is a Bible word, but there's another one used far more often, and means the same thing: Redemption. Believers in Christ have been redeemed-bought back from our Captor-and let go without money and without price (that we paid, I mean).
THE PAID FOR
If our Lord has paid a ransom price, He must have ransomed somebody, and that's right, He has. Who? Piper says,
How many did Christ effectively ransom from sin? He said that He came to 'give His life a ransom for many'. Yet not everyone will be ransomed from the wrath of God. But the offer is for everyone. 'There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all (I Timothy 2:5-6). No one is excluded from this salvation who embraces the treasure of ransoming Christ.
The key word is 'many'. People on all sides of the issue need to believe what the Bible says instead of what they think it should say. 'Many' is the opposite of two things: all and few.
Jesus Christ did not ransom all, for if He had all would be ransomed (which is another way of saying, 'all would be saved'). At the same time, He did not ransom a few-our kind of people, you might say, the ones who believe exactly what we do and live up to our standards of what a Christian should be.
The word of God says He ransomed 'many'. And we ought to be satisfied with what it says, and not twist 'many' into 'a few' or apologize that He didn't ransom 'all'.
Who are the 'many' He ransomed? There is no way of knowing or even guessing who they are before the fact. We find out who they are by offering salvation to everyone who believes in Christ. The offer is for everyone-Piper says-No one is excluded except by his own stubborn unbelief.
What if you were a prisoner of war? And what if someone back home was willing to free you? And, what if he had already paid the ransom to get you out? Would you leave your prison camp? Sure you would, only a fool wouldn't.
But that's what an unbeliever is-a fool. For you are in the prison camp of God's Justice. And Jesus Christ has paid enough ransom to set you free. Now, you need to walk through the open gate and be free. Which you do by putting your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
WHO MADE THE PAYMENT AND WHAT IS IT?
What do we know so far? We know that God received the ransom, and that the ransom was paid for everyone who wants it enough to believe in Christ. The third question is also the most important: Who made the payment? And what was it? Piper says,
When Jesus says that He came 'to give His life as a ransom,' the focus is not on who gets the payment. The focus in on His own life as the payment. Not just His life lived, but His life given up in death.
Jesus Christ made the payment with His own life. To do this, He first became a Man. God, you see, cannot die, and thus to die for us, He first joined the human race. After thirty-plus years of poverty and rejection, He went to the cross where the full price was paid to satisfy God's justice.
This is a theme Peter takes up in the first chapter of his First Epistle,
You were not redeemed by corruptible things like silver and gold.but by the precious blood of Christ.
If God is satisfied with us, it's not because of what we do, or hope to do, but because of what Christ has done for us.
The payer is Christ, the payment is Christ.
This lays the axe to legalism and the fruits that grow on it. If Jesus paid it all, I cannot be proud of myself, what I've done or not done. And if His life was given for a ransom for me, I will not despair because of my sins. Yes I'm a sinner, in some ways worse than unsaved, but I will not be lost because Christ died for me.
Believers in Christ are ransomed from the justice and
wrath of God and at the ultimate price: the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The payment was made of His own free will. Piper says,
The price was not coerced from Him. That's the point of saying, 'The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve'. He needed no service from us. He was the giver, not the receiver. 'No one takes my life from Me. I lay it down of my own accord'. The price was paid freely; it was not forced. Which brings us again to His love. He freely chose to rescue us at the cost of His life.
The critical word is 'freely'. There was no pressure applied to our Lord. None from the outside and none from the inside. Had He wanted to, He could have skipped the cross with His Father's approval. But He chose the harder way, the way of pain and humiliation and death.
Sulky parents might pay to get their kids out of jail or some other trouble. They paid the price, but not freely. But our Lord's payment was offered from the heart.
And Jesus, having loved His own who were in the world, loved them to the end.
The payer was Christ, the payment was Christ, and Christ offered Himself willingly.
WHAT THE PAYMENT DOES
If the ransom has been paid, what does it do for us? In a word, it frees us. From what? Piper says,
The ultimate captivity from which we need release is the Final Judgment of God. When.Christ gave Himself as a ransom for us, we are freed from [that] condemnation.
Believers in Christ do not fall under the judgments of God. We are not condemned now; and we will not be condemned on the Last Day. This means, we must not be ruled by guilt. When you sin, by all means, confess and seek forgiveness. But if you're not condemned, you shouldn't wear the heavy yoke of guilt. Some people call this 'humility', but the Bible calls it 'unbelief'. What the Lord said to the dear woman so long ago, He says to you,
You are loosed!
Did she remain bent double after the Lord said this? No, for the first time in 18 years, she stood up straight! Like her, we used to be bent double with our guilt. But now, we're not. Acting as though we are does not glorify the Lord who freed us. We ought to live confident lives-not self-confident-but with confidence in God and what He's done for us in Christ!
Christians are free-not free to do what we want, but free to do what we ought. This freedom is free to us, but not to Christ. He paid dearly for it. But the word is in the past tense, He paid.Not He will pay for it if we do our best. He has already suffered and died for us to become a ransom for many.
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