“For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:45)
Redemption is the salvation of humanity by Jesus Christ. This is not to say that the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit do not participate in salvation. They fully do. However, Jesus Christ is the called the “Redeemer” of humanity simply because He is the ransom of humanity.
We get our word redemption from the Latin redemptio meaning “a buying back” or “ransom”. Since Adam, (and until the time of Jesus’ appearance on this earth), humanity had been kept in bondage by the devil due to sin. Satan’s original temptation was a lure to entice the children of God away from the Father and abduct them from their proper home. Once ensnared, humanity was put to hard labor under pride and paganism, thus sealing its captivity to sin.
Further, because man is free and deliberately took the devil’s bait as something apparently good, man is culpable and liable to punishment. Hence, man’s captivity was not only a bondage per se, but also a debt needing payment which could never be fully met by man since the one deserving payment was God. It is an inexorable truth that man alone possesses nothing precious enough to serve as justice for mortgaging back his many grievous offenses to God. Man’s condition after the Fall was thus most pitiable.
There is nothing more precious to the Father than his only Son, Jesus Christ. Thankfully, Jesus loves us with such an immensely merciful love that He offered up for a time His divine equality (Phil 2:6-7) (which He always ontologically possesses in the Holy Trinity) to become the ransom to buy back man’s spiritual liberty as a matter of justice. This was a most worthy ransom! This was a price to pay man’s debt in-full for all eternity. The payment was the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus on the Cross to which Jesus nailed man’s corrupted nature restoring it through the perfected human nature He Himself assumed in the Incarnation.
Any beautiful Passion scene might serve as a striking image for our Gospel reading for this 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time. However, since we are not in Lent we use another image from art history as an allegory for the sacrifice of Christ: John Millais’ The Ransom (1862; courtesy The J.P. Getty Museum, Los Angeles). Millais founded the Pre-Raphaelite school which recaptured the naturalistic spirit of the late medieval and early Renaissance periods.
In this image we see the kidnapper, a pirate still holding or just about to release two young girls he had taken captive. The father of the girls offers some precious jewels which another kidnapper (facing outward) reaches out to grasp. One girl has already begun to embrace her father who takes her under his arm. The intensity of the figures contributes to the force of the moment, one full of mistrust. Only the hound offers a calm and somber look to mellow the mood.
There is much more we could pack into our allegory if space allowed. Suffice it to say that the soldier-knight is Christ; yet he does not offer gold or pearls, but his very self, a priceless offering in exchange for the debt of our sinfulness. Perhaps only in heaven will we fully grasp the mystery of the great injustice our sin affected; and the need of a ransom which only God himself could pay on our behalf.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services