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Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior of humankind

"There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under the heaven given to mortals by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12)

Salvation. The term salvation completes and clarifies the term redemption. If redemption is to pay the ransom of someone who suffers a situation of debt or slavery, salvation presupposes freeing from all types of evil someone who suffers them. The salvation that humankind needed referred to the nullifying of the consequences of sin, freeing all humankind from all evils affecting their spirit, soul and body. The Jews understood the term salvation in this way.

In the history of Israel, examples of God’s actions in favour of his people are countless, saving them of evils and dangers. However, there was no final solution for the three more serious types of evil:

  • The sin. The priests were offering sacrifices for expiation of sins, that were provisional remedy for the same. But the goal was not to nullify the sin, for this was not known how, but only to obtain God’s pardon and to keep sin away. The fact that there was no solution against sin explains how it was not possible to save sinners; for the sin not to propagate, there was no other remedy at times than to punish the sinners with death, thus eliminating the sin among the people by eliminating the sinner.
  • The demoniac oppression. We do not find in the Old Testament a ministry of deliverance or of exorcism of those affected by the devils.
  • The death. In the Old Testament it is said that the spirits of the just as well of the sinners at the time of death descended into the Sheol or place of the dead, and also that in Sheol there were completely separated areas, as to establish a difference based on hope: God would do justice to those who lived according to his precepts and that someday they would rise for eternal life, but the sinners would be destined for eternal death. However this was something just hoped for.

That Jesus Christ is the Savior means that in him is the definitive solution for these and all other evils: "and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God as high priest according to the order of Melchizedek" (Hb 5:9-10).

  • For the sin: John the Baptist pointed out to Jesus Christ saying: "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1:29). He identified Jesus and what his ministry was. No one before or after him could do something similar: He is the only innocent, given up instead of us, who assuming the sins of humankind of all times, nailed them to the cross nullifying them. During his earthly ministry Jesus went on doing good and forgiving the sins of the people. In one occasion a paralytic was brought before him and Jesus said to him: "Friend, your sins are forgiven you" (Lk 5:20). Many were scandalized, telling to themselves that only God could forgive sins and not recognizing -or not willing to recognize- in Christ whom John the Baptist said he was. But Jesus Christ continued: "Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk?’ But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" –he said to the one who was paralyzed- "I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home." Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God" (Lk 5:23-25). The spiritual healing that Christ carried out while forgiving the sins of that man was greater and not less real than the miracle of being healed of paralysis. The truth is that all we human beings were sinners and all of us were destined to death. However, salvation came to all through Jesus Christ!: "Since all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:23-24).
  • For the demoniac oppression: After meeting the devil in the wilderness and being tempted, but defeating the enemy, in many occasions Jesus Christ expelled unclean spirits from people oppressed or bonded by Satan. We can remember as example the powerful deliverance of the demoniac of Gerasa (cf Mk 5). This was something that astonished the contemporaries of Jesus, so that some would say: "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons" (Lk 11:15). To this Jesus replied: "Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert and house falls on house. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you" (Lk 11:17,20). We know that God has given man authority over the physical creation from the beginning, but not over the spiritual reality, and man could have had even less power over the devils, after falling into slavery to them. As such we may take as somehow reasonable the thoughts of those Jews. But the answer of Jesus Christ leaves no margin of doubt: he was operating within the authority of God. In Christ, God shares his authority with human beings also at the spiritual level, because Christ, free from debt, came to liberate the oppressed by the devil and to put the tyrant under his feet: "The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil" (1 Jn 3:8).
  • For the death: Within the ministry of Jesus Christ, one important aspect was the rising of the dead (cf Lk 7:22). But the main problem was not the death of the body, but the eternal death. As Jesus Christ healed the paralytic as testimony of his power to forgive sins, he brought Lazarus to life as testimony of his power to set us free from eternal death. In conversation with Martha, the sister of the deceased Lazarus, before raising him to life, said to him: "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day" (Jn 11:24). But Jesus said to her: "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even do they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die" (Jn 11:25-26). And when the "good thief" crucified next to him, said: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Lk 23:42), he did confess Jesus as Messiah and confirmed the Jewish hope, that the Messiah would bring eternal life and salvation from death. Jesus replied to him: "Truly I tell you; today you will be with me in the Paradise" (Lk 23:43), stating that through him, through his sacrifice on the cross there was eternal life for all those who confessed him as their Savior, as the crucified bandit did. And Mathew relates that "the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many" (Mt 27:52-53). For this the Savior was sent: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).

We have seen how Christ is the innocent, sinless, free from debt, the Resurrection and the one who brings life eternal. All evil flee, disappear before him, as he has conquered all our enemies and forgiven our guilt. That is why Christ is our Savior from all evils. During his earthly ministry, "Jesus went about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness" (Mt 9:35).

  • The sick whatever the infirmity were healed and in fact the sickness disappeared from their bodies. Par example, the lepers were cleansed from leprosy with their bodies becoming whole.
  • Those who suffered from any hurt or where limited in their bodies, were healed and their members restored. Par example, the lame recovered the mobility, the normal length and the strength of their hips, legs and feet.
  • Those who had a wounded soul, by traumatic life-experiences, would find relief, healing and their life was restored.
  • Those who were away from the Truth were enlightened so that their minds could be renewed and their lives changed. For the Savior was teaching and preaching the Good News of the Kingdom throughout the villages, reflecting the heart and accomplishing the will of the Father: "God our Savior who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:3-4).

Why? It is relatively easy and presumed to be pleasant to contemplate the work of Salvation of Christ in our favor. But is this really so simple? What motivated Jesus to leave the glory next to the Father, take the human nature and to die on the cross for us?

  • Love. The entire life of our Savior has been motivated by his love for the Father and for human beings: "But I do as the Father has commanded me so that the world may know that I love the Father" (Jn 14:31). The plan of salvation begins in the love of God, "And this is love, not that we have loved God but that he had loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 Jn 4:10). And Christ reveals this infinite love of God, " to the end" (Jn 13:1). For this, "God proves his love in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8).
  • Obedience. The love for the Father was manifest in the perfect obedience to his will: "For just as one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous" (Rom 5:19). As the disobedience in the Eden when eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil brought all evils, the obedience of Christ unto death, death on the cross repaired the disorder of sin and brought to us all sorts of blessings. The cross was thus transformed into the tree of life. The obedience of Christ repaired the disobedience of Adam and of all men. He said: "for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me that I should not lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day" (Jn 6:38-39).
  • Grace. We need not to turn it again and again: it has been freely given love, unconditional, sincere, genuine, infinite and personal towards each and every human being, although we are unworthy, absolutely unworthy of this love and of such a Savior: "For if the many died through the one man’s trespasses, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, abounding for many" (Rom 5:15), "according to the riches of his grace" (Eph 1:7).

An amazing exchange. He took upon him our evils, so that we could be saved and in exchange to receive his blessings. We can approach Christ in confidence and surrender to him our entire life that he would take it and give us his!: "Whoever has the Son has life, whoever does not have the Son does not have life" (1 Jn 5:12).

Questions for sharing:

  • Why is Jesus Christ the only Savior? Could anyone else save humankind from sin and its consequences?
  • How did the Jews understand salvation? What Jesus did among them and among the inhabitants of the neighboring areas during his public ministry?
  • Why is salvation through grace?

 

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