The Biblical word "ransom" (lutron) refers to the price that was paid to purchase or redeem a prisoner of war or a slave.
To get what Jesus is saying we must understand the desperation of our state apart from Christ. Compare:
NKJ Psalm 49:6 Those who trust in their wealth And boast in the multitude of their riches, 7 None of them can by any means redeem his brother, Nor give to God a ransom for him -- 8 For the redemption of their souls is costly, And it shall cease forever --
Jesus is saying that he came to offer his life as a purchase price, a ransom, to be the means for securing the redemption of those who have been the slaves of sin and were on their way to hell.
You can go to downtown Charlottesville to "0 Court Square" and see the plaque that marks the spot where at one time human beings were bought and sold in this town. I went there last year with Dr. Michael Haykin, and he wept to think of the human beings who were bought and sold on that spot.
But when we come to the marker of the cross we do not weep tears of sadness but tears of joy. Our good heavenly Master took those of us who were in bondage to those cruel taskmasters Sin and Death, and he paid down the purchase price of Christ’s blood and bought us. Paul tells the Corinthians: "For you were bought with a price" (1 Cor 6:20) and again, "You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men" (7:23). Here is the thing. Once he purchased us by the ransom of Christ, he did not keep up as slaves, but he made us his sons. In Galatians 4:5 Paul said Christ came in the fullness of time "to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Gal 4:5).
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