On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43b-45, NIV)
When Jesus first said, “Follow me!” (1:17), what did the disciples think? That following Jesus led down a path toward fame, reward and glory? Now, after nearly three years with Jesus, they’re learning differently.
James and John’s request for greatness came in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus certainly knew that underneath the surface, competitive jostling for position among the disciples was taking place. But He did not deal with that issue prematurely. He waited until it came to a head. It’s a good lesson for us — sometimes it’s best to wait until a more opportune moment to deal with a difficulty or conflict.
If you long for greatness and a lead position, then Jesus has advice. Leadership is not being on top with everyone supporting you. It’s working your way to the bottom to support everyone else. In that succinct lesson, be “slave of all,” Jesus tells us how to lead others — in marriage and family, church, work and community.
Sadly, the church has not always listened to Him. I’ve seen too many instances in the local church and in national bodies of believers where selfish ambition, cloaked in spirituality, flatly ignores Jesus’ teaching. You can always tell self-seeking leaders — they put their own interests ahead of the unity of the Body. They would rather split believers from one another than humble themselves to take a subordinate and supportive role.
Jesus points us to His own example. For the ninth time in Mark’s Gospel He refers to himself as the Son of Man. No one else calls Him that. It’s His self-designated term. Many falsely take this title as a reference to His humanity. Not so! Jesus draws upon Daniel 7 imagery, wherein the Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven and is given eternal authority and dominion by the Ancient of Days (God the Father).
If Jesus, the divine Son of Man, takes the role of a servant, how can we do less? And that’s His point — “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”
But serving is only part of His mission. We are at a hinge moment in the Gospel of Mark. Everything preceding this has focused on His serving, but from chapter 11 on the focus shifts to Jesus giving His life “as a ransom for many.”
Jesus saw His life as a substitute for ours. Ransom is paid to free a captive. Here is what we can never have without Him: forgiveness of sin, right relationship with God, eternal life.
Many regard Jesus simply as a good moral teacher. But Jesus saw himself as far more than that. Living a good example and teaching the principles of God’s kingdom were only part of the picture. They are incomplete without His substitutionary death. He cannot save us by His teaching alone — He understood the necessity of voluntarily laying down His life for you and me. His mission would have been forever incomplete without the cross.
A prayer of response
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark