For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (ESV)
We are continuing our look at contrasts in Scripture marked by the conjunction “but.” We’re going to finish up with a couple in the New Testament then we’ll turn our attention toward Easter.
In today’s passage, Jesus responds to a request from James and John to be seated on Jesus’s right and left hand in His glory. He deflects their request, but not before it becomes a source of indignation with the other ten disciples. Jesus takes the opportunity to teach His guys a critical lesson they would need, especially after He was gone.
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. Mark 10:42-44
There are several notable ‘buts’ in those verses as well. Then our focal verse demonstrates Jesus is modeling this for the Twelve. Let’s break down Jesus’s words and see what we can learn from them.
Power may get you ahead in the world, but it does not equal greatness in the kingdom of God.
We are in an election season in the US and day after day, we see candidates who will say anything, spend anything, align themselves with anything and advocate for anything in pursuit of power. Jesus turns that completely on its head. Servanthood is the mark of greatness. Jesus says this in a culture where servants had few, if any, rights. They had very little agency and opportunities for anything else were essentially nonexistent. Jesus raises their status by becoming one Himself.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve
The name Jesus uses for Himself is very telling. The Son of Man. One of us. He identifies with us, with our needs with our helplessness. He came, not to be served, which was His due. Jesus Christ is God Incarnate and all worship and glory and honor is due Him. It is His right. But He voluntarily came to serve. Read the gospels closely. See how many times the crowd pressed Him. See how many times He healed the sick until late at night. Notice when He taught for hours, track Him as He walks miles and miles preaching in every village and town. He surrendered His agenda, His priorities and His energy to accomplish the Father’s purposes which meant serving those He encountered.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not advocating for exhaustion and burnout in the name of the kingdom. I firmly believe we need rest and refreshing. We are not divine and do not have supernatural stores of energy and endurance. But seeing Christ’s example should cause us to question our priorities. Are we self-centered with our schedules and resources? Have we been ignoring a Holy Spirit nudge to invest ourselves in a ministry or in a person?
Are we humbly serving in our churches? I have watched as a church member who noticed a wad of paper at her feet call for another member to come pick it up. Some members are the type to tell you the toilet is backed up and some are the type to head in with a plunger. If you pick up groceries for an old lady, she can’t return the favor. If you change the oil in a single mom’s car, she can’t pay you back. That’s not the point. Jesus calls us to serve.
But to give His life as a ransom for many
This is the ultimate act of selflessness. Christ did what we could not, cannot do. Nor can we give our lives for the salvation of another. However we can give our lives, our time, our treasure to ensure everyone hears the gospel. That is our singular focus. I love Bible study, but the gospel comes first. I say this as someone who is completely uncomfortable initiating a conversation about the gospel and under full conviction for the words I write, God help me. Jesus purpose was to give His life. Ours is to bring others to Him.
As we reflect on Jesus’s words, let’s resolve to be great in the kingdom, to selflessly serve, to commit to God’s purposes.