“to give his life as a ransom for many”
One online dictionary defines the word “ransom” as: 1) the redemption of a prisoner, slave, or kidnapped person, of captured goods, etc., for a price; 2) the sum or price paid or demanded. When looking at how our Gospel uses the word today, to describe Jesus who gave his life as a ransom for many, one can say, “Well, those definitions together pretty much sum it up.”
The word Matthew uses for ransom is found in the New Testament in only one other place, and that is in Mark, from whom Matthew borrowed heavily. The notes from the Revised NAB, however, tell us that the word, “does not necessarily express the idea of liberation by payment of some price. The cognate verb is used frequently in the LXX of God’s liberating Israel from Egypt or from Babylonia after the Exile.” So the online dictionary definition is not enough to describe the Paschal Mystery.
Different from the dictionary definition is the object of price. Jesus paid no cash or property. He paid with his life. Missing also from the online dictionary, as one can expect, is the issue of sin. That comes to light as we look at how Mark and Matthew take the Old Testament use of the word and apply it to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. What also comes to light in the verse is the harmony between service and ransom. We hear, “Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” So what we see is that it was an act of service, the greatest in fact, to give his life as a price demanded for redemption, or the “leading out” of the slavery of sin those who were held captive.
St. James, whom we celebrate in today’s feast, lost his life doing just that. Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to those who would listen, and to those who wouldn’t, he was beheaded for preaching the good news of salvation to those who were willing to hear and believe that, in Jesus, their sins had been forgiven and their lives had been ransomed.
Pray for us St. James, Holy Apostle of God. (P.S.- Did the Father let you sit at the right or the left of Jesus?- Inquiring minds want to know)