What Does Jesus’ Death Mean to You?
“ALL the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has this one solitary personality.” So wrote author James A. Francis regarding Jesus Christ.
People view Jesus in various ways, but the Bible identifies him as God’s Son and a man of self-sacrificing love. Jesus cited a principal way in which he showed that love when he said of himself: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.”—Matthew 20:28.
What is the significance of this ransom? Why was it needed? Who is ransomed? Indeed, what does Jesus’ death mean to you?
What Is It?
A ransom is something that releases. Ransoming someone means delivering him from captivity or punishment by paying a price. In a spiritual sense, “to ransom” means to bring about deliverance from sin and its penalty. That is why Jesus died. As the Christian apostle Paul wrote: “The wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 6:23.
A redemption price is Scripturally associated with paying a ransom. Psalm 49:6-9 says: “Those who are trusting in their means of maintenance, and who keep boasting about the abundance of their riches, not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; (and the redemption price of their soul is so precious that it has ceased to time indefinite) that he should still live forever and not see the pit.” The ransom is a redemption accomplished by God, not by any imperfect human.
The ransom is needed because our first human father, Adam, sinned. He thus lost endless perfect life, was justly sentenced to death, and eventually died. (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7, 17-19; 5:5) As his descendants, we have inherited sin and death. “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin,” wrote Paul, “and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) Yes, “in Adam all are dying.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) So the psalmist David correctly said: “With error I was brought forth with birth pains, and in sin my mother conceived me.”—Psalm 51:5.
Deliverance from condemnation to sin and death is essential if any sinful descendant of Adam is to receive eternal life. Whereas imperfect humans cannot provide this ransom, Jehovah lovingly did so through Jesus Christ. Yet, what is bought with the ransom? Well, when Adam sinned, he lost everlasting perfect human life, with all its rights and prospects. Hence, the same thing was redeemed by means of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.
What It Makes Possible
Justice was satisfied in mankind’s experiencing death, the penalty of sin. So the ransom is an act of God’s mercy and loving-kindness. Jesus’ perfect human life, with all its rights and prospects, was laid down in death and never taken back, for he was not resurrected as a man of flesh and blood but as an immortal spirit creature. (1 Corinthians 15:50; 1 Peter 3:18) The sacrificed human life of Jesus Christ therefore continued to have redemptive, or ransoming, power.
As a sinless human, Jesus stood in a position similar to that originally occupied by perfect Adam. For being obedient to God to death, Jesus was made the great High Priest, and he presented the value of his perfect human sacrifice in heaven. (Hebrews 9:24-26) Because God accepted this redemptive price, Jesus could redeem believing descendants of Adam from sin and death by applying the merit of his sacrifice in their behalf. (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; 1 John 2:1, 2) Jesus thus “became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” (Hebrews 5:8, 9) This makes it possible for them to attain a righteous standing before God through his Son.
Who Is Ransomed?
Who, then, benefit from the ransom? Humans who exercise faith in this provision and thus come into harmony with God. By serving him faithfully, they can be freed from sin and its penalty death and receive eternal life.—John 17:3.
The first man could decide whether to obey God or not. He chose disobedience. “Adam was not deceived,” but he died a willful sinner. (1 Timothy 2:14) Yet, what about Adam’s descendants? They could choose either to serve God to the best of their imperfect ability or to disobey their Creator.—Joshua 24:15.
Jesus came “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Mark 10:45) But who are the “many”? Adam is evidently excluded because he was a perfect man who deliberately chose to disobey God and died as an unrepentant, willful sinner. But what about his large family, numbering into the thousands of millions? With a corresponding price, Jesus Christ offsets the inherited condemnation resting on Adam’s family. (Compare 1 Timothy 2:5, 6.) In behalf of the “many” believers, Jesus applies the merit of his redemptive price.
Ransomed believers include both Jews and Gentiles, or people of the nations. Says Paul: “As through one trespass the result to men of all sorts was condemnation, likewise also through one act of justification the result to men of all sorts is a declaring of them righteous for life.” (Romans 5:18) By dying on a stake, “Christ by purchase released [Jews] from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of [them], because it is written: ‘Accursed is every man hanged upon a stake.’” (Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:23) Romans 4:11 alludes to Gentiles when it says that while Abraham, forefather of the Jews, was yet uncircumcised, he became “the father of all those having faith while in uncircumcision.” So, then, Jesus’ ransom sacrifice benefits believing Jews and Gentiles.
The course taken by each individual determines whether he will benefit from Jesus’ sacrifice. Like Adam, the willfully wicked do not have ransom merit and eternal life forced upon them. As Christ said: “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” (John 3:36) The ransom also makes a resurrection possible for those dead who are in God’s memory. (John 5:28, 29) If they prove obedient and appreciative, the application of ransom benefits to them means that they will live forever. But for those living in these “last days,” there is the possibility of life eternal without the need to die at all.—2 Timothy 3:1-5; Matthew 24:3-14, 21, 34; John 11:25, 26.
Reasons for Gratitude
Anyone desiring to benefit from the ransom must have deep appreciation for it. And how fitting such gratitude is! After all, the ransom called for abundant love on the part of God and Christ.
Jehovah God showed great love in providing the ransom through his Son’s death. Said Jesus: “God loved the world [of mankind] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. For God sent forth his Son into the world, not for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him.” (John 3:16, 17) Should you not appreciate this manifestation of God’s love?
Think further about the depth of Jehovah’s love in making provision for the ransom. Before God’s Son was sent to the earth to live and die as a perfect man, he had a prehuman existence. He was “the firstborn of all creation,” by means of whom “all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible.” (Colossians 1:13-16) How Jehovah loved his Son! Nevertheless, God did not send just any one of the millions of righteous angels to the earth. His love for mankind was so great that he sent his firstborn Son.
Consider, too, the deep love that Jesus showed in connection with the ransom. As a spirit creature in heaven, he was God’s “master worker.” True, “the things [God’s Son] was fond of were with the sons of men.” (Proverbs 8:22-31) Yet, it was not easy for him to leave heaven, with its very favorable circumstances in association with his Father and myriads of righteous angels. From his heavenly vantage point, the Son of God could see the evil conditions on the earth and the ravages of sin and death upon mankind. He also knew that providing the ransom would call for his death. Yet, he “took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, . . . he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death.” For such faithfulness, Jesus was raised to glorious heavenly life. (Philippians 2:5-11) What love he showed with regard to the ransom! Do you appreciate what Jesus did?
What Will You Do?
The English prelate Richard of Chichester (c. 1198–1253) once prayed that men and women might come “to know Jesus Christ more clearly, to love him more dearly, and to follow him more nearly.” Jesus’ ransom sacrifice surely provides one sound reason to get to know, love, and follow him.
If it was not for the ransom, as sinners we would die without hope, for “the sting producing death is sin.” (1 Corinthians 15:56) Hence, to be saved from death that would result because of your having been stung by sin, what must you do? You need to learn about God’s provision for salvation through Jesus Christ. Then you must demonstrate that you exercise faith in the ransom. How? By showing heartfelt appreciation for it, devoting yourself to God, and telling others about this wonderful provision for salvation.
This course can put you among the “great crowd” who “come out of the great tribulation, and . . . have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” Jesus Christ. (Revelation 7:9, 14) Theirs is the hope of eternal life in an earthly paradise. (Luke 23:43) Yes, and you can be part of that happy throng, if Jesus’ death really is something precious to you.
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Sinless Jesus stood in a position similar to that originally occupied by perfect Adam
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Do you appreciate the real meaning of Jesus’ death?