Why Jesus is My Hero #14 of 52
The Experience of Human Leadership
What’s your experience of those in power? Here in the UK we love to moan and complain about our political leaders, but by and large we have reason to be tremendously thankful for the kind of leadership we enjoy. But that’s not the case in many parts of the world. For many people, their experience of government is of corruption and of power-hungry dictators abusing their position for their own ends. A longing for something better is what’s driven so many in the Arab world of late to risk their lives in protest against oppressive regimes. Figures like Mubarak in Egypt and Colonel Gaddafi in Libya – history is rife with examples of people who’ve used their positions of influence to line their pockets and inflate their egos. Even in places where the government is democratically elected and accountable to the people, our leaders generally profit from the experience – just think of Tony Blair and the enormous consulting fees he now commands.
A Different Kind of Ruler
In Mark 10:35-45, Jesus speaks about his leadership style, and the contrast is stark. It’s clear right from the start of the passage that we are to think of Jesus as a ruler. Two of his disciples, James and John, approach him in v35 with a request:
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.. Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
They know that Jesus will one day be seated in glory as God’s king over the universe – he’s the ultimate ruler. And naturally, they want to make the most of their connection with him, and get some cushy cabinet positions in the new regime. When the other ten disciples find out that they’ve missed the boat in v41, they’re indignant that James and John beat them to it, and Jesus uses it as an opportunity to teach them all a lesson about what leadership looks like in his kingdom. He tells us what we already know about earthly kings, and then shows how the value system of heaven is completely different – have a look at v42:
“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.”
The King Who Came To Serve
Greatness in God’s economy is completely backwards – the one with the highest honour is the one who is the lowest of the low, the one who has to clean the communal toilets just inside the pearly gates. The places of honour are reserved for those who make themselves slave of all – the very bottom of the heap. And beneath all of them, down on his hands and knees scrubbing away, is Jesus himself. Check out v45:
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus is God’s King – that’s what the Son of Man means according to the Old Testament – all the disciples know he’s going to be enthroned in glory in the New Creation, and yet this king came to earth to serve. He’s the one who will ultimately be shown to be slave of all – the lowest of the low – who as a result is crowned with the greatest honour of all. He didn’t come driving an enormous limo with attendants feeding him grapes and fanning him to keep him cool; he lived in poverty and relative obscurity before ultimately giving his life to die on a cross.
Giving His Life as a Ransom For Many
But how is his death on the cross an act of service? Isn’t it just a tragic waste of life? Well, Jesus insists that his death had a purpose, and here he explains what that purpose was: he gave his life as a ransom for many. A “ransom” is a term from the slave market – it’s a price paid to free someone from slavery. The most famous ransom in the Old Testament is when God “ransomed” Israel from their slavery in Egypt and set them free to be their own independent nation again – it’s described in those terms again and again throughout the Bible, as a ransom. Jesus says his death will have that same effect: he will give his life to ransom many from slavery. Only the slavery he’s talking about isn’t physical slavery like the Israelites suffered in Egypt. He’s talking about our slavery to sin – the way that we’re held prisoners in bondage to our sin and its consequences. Earlier in Mark’s gospel Jesus has spoken of the blackness of the human heart and how it constantly pumps out selfishness and greed and evil desires like sewage. Even when we try to do right we find that we can’t, and besides, it’s far too late for us to change – even if we could stop disobeying God and start living perfectly the way he intended right now, we’d still have a mountain of debt we couldn’t possibly hope to pay – God would still be rightly angry at the way we’ve treated him. We are slaves to our sin and there’s nothing we can do about it.
But wonderfully, Jesus tells us here that by his death he can ransom us from sin – his death sets us free to live for God the way we were designed. He died the death that we deserved; he took all of God’s just anger at our sin upon himself; he paid our debt for us upon the cross. We have been ransomed from our slavery to sin. We are free.
But notice the qualification – he died for many, not all. An invitation has been extended to you, Jesus wants to serve you. But you need to accept that ransom on your behalf – you need to commit your life into Jesus’ hands. Don’t expect it to be a shortcut to glory and riches in this life – after all, to follow Jesus is to walk in his footsteps, a path of suffering and service of others – but make sure you accept this offer whilst it’s still open to you. One day Jesus will be seen to be crowned with glory and honour in God’s kingdom, and the recent celebrations on the streets of Egypt will be as nothing compared to the party on that day.