Catholic Q&A

How does the death of Jesus serve as forgiveness of our sins? I heard it was for the “Redemption” of mankind. I am not sure what that means.

More than forgiveness of sin, it may be easier to say that it is a healing of a world hurt by sin. In other words, the Christian faith begins with the understanding that the death of Jesus was the work of God’s salvation. It is to understand the fact that through the death of Jesus, God himself accepted the misery of mankind that was bound by the power of sin. Hence, if you have a correct understanding of the old-fashioned word redemption, you are looking for the truth.

“Redemption” is a very old word used in the Bible, and it is probably derived from an ethnic background. Among the ancient Middle Eastern peoples, those who lost battles became prisoners of war, and to be sold as slaves and so on was for them a daily occurrence. Hence, to buy back those captured by other ethnic groups or sold as slaves, was “redemption.” The Jewish people in particular were often harassed by other strong groups, and the leaders of their people were uprooted and seized. Amidst such national crises, they continued to believe that God alone was the one who could rescue their nation, and hence was their true redeemer. This way of thinking assisted them in understanding Jesus, and it was used to explain God’s work of salvation, that was carried out through the death of Jesus Christ.

Originally it was a concept linked to the history of a specific ethnic group, but yet when you come to think of it, it is indeed a word with profound implications. What it reveals is that, (1) Human beings are in captivity. (2) God made a sacrifice and delivered them. (3) Freedom has been restored to the liberated human beings.

What the word redemption expresses is the fact that through the cross of Jesus our wounded world was healed, and our existence of flesh became a part of the life of God.

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