Matthew 20:28b A Ransom For Many.
Jesus just finished teaching on servant leadership, brought on by a request from the mother of James and John that they be by his side as first among equals. However, greatness in leadership is not to lord it over others but to serve. To this end the Son came, and the one word that summarizes his great person and work of redemption is ‘ransom’. This is a truly loaded term, understood by any with a knowledge of the scriptures and even beyond them. In his life of coming to serve (Cf. Lk. 22:27), it should be noted firstly that he gave himself to this, it was not forced upon him, nor was his life taken against his will. “He gave His life.” Secondly, he could have given many things, but the one thing needful for sinners was life in place of death, the due penalty for sin.
Isaiah wrote about this coming Servant in his famous gospel passage of 53:10-11.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
Thirdly, these words show that only a fellow man could be an acceptable ransom, but also only God could himself bear iniquities.
A fourth point here should also not escape notice, and that is that he would be a ransom for ‘many’, not ‘all’. This expresses the same thought noted earlier, that “many are called, but few are chosen (v. 16). Fifthly, it is in offering himself as a ransom for many that he justifies the many (Cf. Acts 13:38-39; Rom. 5:15-18). This leaves us finally with the word ransom itself. “This term refers to the price paid to deliver someone from slavery or imprisonment. The price of freedom from sin and condemnation is Jesus’ life, given for us (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Since the elect are ransomed from the wrath of God, the ransom was offered to God Himself. Jesus drinks the cup of God’s wrath (v. 23), not for His own sins; but as the means of ransoming many.” (NGSB 1539)*
*“Ransom. A price paid to free the guilty from a sentence (Ex. 21:30), or debtors from their debt (Ex. 30:12; cf. Is. 53:10).” (NGSB 1584)