Lent: Jesus Gave His Life as a Ransom for Many
Pastor Oliver reflects on Jesus' sacrificial, ransoming death and marvels at what it means for us.
Beloved, we are remembering Passion Week. This Holy Week marks the week some 2000 plus years ago when Jesus entered Jerusalem. During this week, Jesus was arrested, crucified, died and buried and rose again on the third day. Many Christians will consider and reflect on Jesus Christ, our Servant Saviour and the Cross during this period.
As I was preparing the sermon for the past week, I was struck afresh by Mark 10:45: "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' ransoming death
The ultimate act of servant leadership is shown in the Son of Man's sacrificial death as a ransom payment for the sins of the World. The phrase "Son of Man" recalls Daniel 7:13–14, where one like "a son of man" comes with the clouds of heaven before the Ancient of Days (God himself). God gives him authority, glory, and sovereign power. He is worshipped by all nations and peoples and receives an eternal reign and kingdom that will never be destroyed. This glorious and magnificent picture of the Messiah explains why Jesus says, "Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve." No one would expect the one destined to receive eternal glory, worship, honour, and rule to come as a lowly servant. Still less would they expect him "to give his life as a ransom for many".
The meaning of "ransom" is "the price of release". It refers to the price paid for the release and setting free of enslaved people. The verb form of "ransom" is "redeem". It means to free by paying a ransom. Redeem was also used in the more general sense, meaning to liberate from an oppressive situation, to set free, to rescue, to redeem. The word often refers to God's deliverance of the nation Israel from slavery in Egypt (Exo 6:6; 15:13; Deut 7:8; 9:26, 13:6; etc.).
In Christ, Paul writes that "we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses" (Eph 1:7). Paul tells us that the Son of Man's death will pay the necessary price to set his people free. In addition, the word "For" used here has the sense of substitution, i.e., "in place of" or "instead of". Putting it all together: Jesus says he pays a ransom payment "on behalf of" and "in place of" us sinners who have been freed. The ransom payment is Jesus life. The Son of Man gives his own life on the cross to provide redemption or release from sin. Jesus' life is given for the ransom of our lives.
Mark 10:45 echoes its background in Isaiah 53:11–12: the suffering servant will "justify many" and "bear their iniquities". Jesus has ransomed us from the penalties of our sins and has paid the price in our place. But also, Jesus has set us free from the captivity of sin -- the enslaving power of sin has been broken. We sin-blinded disciples can now truly see Jesus for who he is and understand his instructions and command. In other words, Jesus' sacrifice in our place on the cross frees us from our sins and enables us to follow him.
Church traditions tell us that Mark collected the Apostle Peter's words and wrote them in the Gospel of Mark. Peter, years later, in 1 Peter 1:18-19, writes: "knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot."
After Jesus' crucifixion, death and resurrection, the disciples trusted the resurrected Jesus and had their eyes open. They finally understood who Jesus is and what kind of Messiah He is, that He is "the Son of Man [that] came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Our response to Jesus' work
How should we respond to Jesus serving us by his death on the cross? We should receive Jesus Christ, who served us by his ransoming death, freeing us from sin-blindness, and we should serve others.
Beloved, during this coming Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday Weekend, I suggest that we can do these four things. Firstly, read and meditate on Mark 10:32-45; 15:16-39 and Mark 16:1-8. We will cover these three passages in our sermons on the Servant Saviour. Come to our services on Friday and Sunday prepared to receive and hear God's Word afresh as we consider our crucified and resurrected saviour. Let our sight of Jesus Christ stir our affections for Him.
Secondly, let us gather in person as a church this weekend. Let us assemble in person. Let the singing of the saints praise God, and as we hear one another sing the gospel, encourage one another to look to Jesus Christ. Let us serve one another with our presence.
Thirdly, we will have members joining us through baptisms and transfer on Sunday. As we observe the baptisms, think and cherish the gospel that baptism pictures - that we have been buried with Christ in the grave and now raised to new life when we placed our faith in Him (Rom 6:3-4). Let the gospel captivate our hearts again.
Lastly, let us serve our friends, especially our non-Christian friends. Let us show hospitality to our visitors. Some of us might even host them for a meal after the worship service. Or, for our non-Christian friends, we can serve them Jesus. We can introduce them to the gospel resources available for free. And we ought to be ready to share our story of how we came to know and trust in our servant Saviour when the opportunity arises. Beloved, let us receive Jesus who served by his ransoming death and serve others!
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