Theme: Christ, the Servant
This week’s lesson encourages us to examine Christ’s ultimate act of service for us.
even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Yesterday I spoke of the word, lutron. We can go back further than this. Lutron has parallels in the Hebrew of the Old Testament. The first parallel is the word kopher, which also means “a ransom price.” But kopher is richer than the simple Greek idea, because it refers to the redemption of a person who, apart from the payment of that redemption price, would die.
Let me explain. Suppose a person owned an ox that had gored somebody to death. Under some circumstances (we would describe it as manslaughter rather than homicide) the owner of the ox would be fined. But suppose there had been negligence. Suppose the ox was known to be dangerous and that the owner had neglected to secure the animal properly. In this case the owner of the ox could be killed. He would have to forfeit his life for the one whose life had been taken. There would be little to be gained by one more death, of course. So the Old Testament provided a way, by which, if he could come to an agreement with the relatives of the dead man, it would be possible for him to pay a ransom price, an indemnity, instead of dying. This ransom price was called the kopher.
Jesus spoke Aramaic (a dialect of Hebrew) rather than Greek, of course. So this idea would have been in his and the disciples’ minds when he spoke of his life becoming a ransom for others. This enriches our understanding of What the Lord did in dying for us. For it is not only that in some vague way his death freed us from sin’s power. He did deliver us from sin’s power, but he also delivered us from death, which is the punishment God had established for transgressions (“The soul who sins. . .will die,” Ezek. 18:4). The way he did this was by dying in our place.
The final words I bring into this study are gaal, meaning “to redeem,” and the related noun, goel, which means “kinsman-redeemer.” This latter term requires some separate explanation.
It was a principle of Jewish law that property should remain Within a family as much as possible. So if a Jewish person lost his or her share of the land through debt or by some other means, a solemn obligation evolved upon a near relative (if there was one) to buy the property back again.
This person, because of his or her close relationship to the one who had lost the property, was a “kinsman,” and if he was willing and able to purchase the property and restore it to the family, he became a “kinsman-redeemer.” In some cases, Where there was no male heir to inherit the property, the duty of the kinsman extended to marrying the widow in order to raise up heirs.
A kinsman-redeemer had to fulfill three qualifications:
He had to be a close relative (a stranger would not do),
He had to be willing to take on this responsibility (nobody could be compelled to do this work), and
He had to be able to pay the ransom price; that is, he had to have sufficient means at his disposal.
These three conditions were fulfilled in the case of Jesus Christ, but they are best illustrated in the story of Ruth and her redeemer Boaz which I will explain in tomorrow’s lesson.
How does the knowledge of the Hebrew word, ‘kopher,’ enrich our understanding of the text in Matthew?
How did Jesus fulfill the requirements of a kinsman-redeemer for us?
Study of the origin and development of words in the Bible illuminates our understanding of the text and is important considering that the original texts were in a different language.
Redeem’ is not a word we often use today. In fact, it is most commonly associated with coupon use in retail. Look up the word in the dictionary and its use in the Bible. What significance is there in Jesus being our redeemer?
Christ has not only freed us from sin’s power, but he has delivered us from death.