Jesus—who was God incarnate—came for a very specific reason. He explained in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (emphasis mine).
Why would Jesus talk in terms of making a payment to release captives? The answer is we’re all captives to sin. And because of our sin we’ve incurred a debt we can’t afford to pay. Romans 6:23 explains, “The wages of sin is death.” This means we deserve a spiritual death penalty—one we’ll have to pay for all eternity.
Thankfully, Jesus came to die on the cross to pay our ransom and set us free. He “suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). This means Jesus paid the death penalty in our place. That’s why Romans 6:23 ends with “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” No wonder the gospel is called good news!
But some people ask why God couldn’t simply forgive people without sacrificing his Son. In response, philosopher Paul Copan, in our interview for The Case for the Real Jesus, points to the parable in Matthew 18:21–35, which describes a king who forgives a great debt.
“Notice what happens in that parable. The king doesn’t just forgive,” Copan explains. “He also absorbs the debt. The king basically says he’s going to bear the burden of the loss even though the servant owes him money. Similarly, Jesus paid the cost of our sin on the cross. It’s like a child who breaks a neighbor’s window. He may be too young to pay the price himself, so his parents pay it for him.”
We’re like the servant—or the child. Thankfully God, in Christ, assumed and absorbed our debt. He paid our ransom in order to set captives like us—you and me—free for eternity.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.