What Does It Mean for Jesus to Be Our “Redeemer?”

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane,” (detail) by Harry Anderson

To redeem something is to repurchase it, to buy back something we have given away or sold. When applied to a person, the word implies rescue from captivity or bondage. (See “redeem,” Webster’s Dictionary, 1828.)

Isaiah uses the imagery of redemption to remind us that we don’t deserve the relief we receive from God. “To whom have I put thee away, or to which of my creditors have I sold you?” the Lord asks Israel. “Yea, to whom have I sold you?” And then He answers, “Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves” (Isaiah 50:1, 2 Nephi 7:1). Sin is bondage. When we choose to do wrong, our subsequent freedom is restricted by the consequences of those choices. (See John 8:33-34, D&C 84:49-51.)

In the following verse, God wonders aloud why Israel, having sold themselves into captivity, doesn’t want to accept His redemption: “[Why], when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver?” (Isaiah 50:2, 2 Nephi 7:2). Two chapters later, the Lord reassures the people that He is willing to repurchase them even though they cannot repay Him: “Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money” (Isaiah 52:3, 3 Nephi 20:38).

In the Old Testament, the word “redeemer” is a translation of the word go’el (גּוֹאֵ֔ל), which signifies a close relative who helps you when you are in trouble. In the Book of Ruth, the term is translated as “near kinsman,” meaning a person who has a familial obligation to rescue you from a difficult situation (Ruth 3:9, 12, Ruth 4:14).

When we enter a covenant relationship with God, we become “the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7). He becomes that “near kinsman” to us, who will deliver us from bondage, even bondage of our own making. No wonder that the word “Redeemer” is usually preceded in the scriptures by a possessive pronoun:

  • Nephi, Enos, Alma, and King Lamoni all speak of “my Redeemer,” echoing the words of Job and of King David (2 Nephi 11:2, Enos 1:27, Mosiah 27:30, Alma 19:13, Job 19:25Psalm 19:14).
  • Isaiah uses the phrase “thy Redeemer” on seven occasions, five of which are quoted in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 20:17, 1 Nephi 21:26, 2 Nephi 6:18, 3 Nephi 22:5,8). Additionally, Lehi reassures his son Jacob that his afflictions will turn to his good “because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer” (2 Nephi 2:3).
  • Both Nephi and Mormon refer to Jesus as “your Redeemer,” referring to a group of people (2 Nephi 31:17, Moroni 8:8).
  • Helaman urges his sons to build their foundation upon “the rock of our Redeemer” (Helaman 5:12). Pahoran also uses this phrase in his letter to Captain Moroni (Alma 61:14).
  • Additionally, the phrase “their Redeemer” appears nineteen times in the Book of Mormon.
  • Less frequently (only six times), Jesus Christ is referred to as “this Redeemer” or “the Redeemer.”

Today, I will remember the personal nature of the Savior’s redemption. I will remember that I cannot rescue myself from all of the effects my poor choices. I will be grateful that Jesus Christ is willing to serve in the role of my “near kinsman” and to repurchase me from captivity and bondage. I will be grateful not only that He is the Redeemer, but that He is my Redeemer.

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