Chapter 21 The Ministering Servant

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

The whole purpose of our Lord in coming into this world and assuming our human nature was to atone for our sins and thus reconcile us to God. This is our Lord’s own interpretation of His sufferings and death on Calvary’s cross.

The Central Importance of It

The primary reason why the Lord came from heaven to earth was not to live a life in the flesh and demonstrate what a perfect life was, but to give His life for a ransom. When He said He came to minister and give His life for a ransom, He is not describing two purposes—not to live a life of service and then give His life as a climax to that service. His one and particular purpose was to give His life for a ransom. This is what He came to do and He repeatedly spoke of that hour for which He had come. The Cross was His supreme and only service. It was the “must” of His coming.

The Scriptural Anticipation of It

There is an Old Testament allusion to the cross in this very verse. It is first in the description of Himself as the Son of man—His favorite title. He is spoken of so prophetically in Daniel 7:13. This title our Lord fulfills in Himself. He was that Son of man. He was not inferior to the Father in essential Being but only in the office which He assumed. Then again, the giving of His life as a ransom is contemplated in Isaiah 52:13, as He is set forth as the Divine Servant, after which His sufferings and death are uniquely described in chapter 53. In His first coming His sufferings were to be His service to the nations, and after His second coming all nations would serve Him. Both of these aspects are combined in Luke 24:26—“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?”

The Voluntary Character of It

The Lord referred to His death as a Divine necessity. He must suffer and be killed. The Old Testament revealed that most clearly in all types and predictions. “Thus it must be,” said He. It is important to realize the voluntary character of His role as a Divine Servant in Old Testament predictions. There was no compulsion—no reluctance in submitting to it—no sense of fatalistic inevitability. The Lord Jesus embraced His sufferings most gladly and willingly as the Father’s will. There was no antagonism between the Father and the Son. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). The love of God was commended, not commanded, in the cross. The love of God was manifested, not procured, by our Lord’s death. At any time the Lord Jesus could have escaped the cross, but never for a moment did He deviate from the intention upon which our redemption was dependent.

The Motive Power of It

His motive was to serve and to give. His self-giving was motivated by His desire to minister to man’s needs and that service was the activity of divine love. In the context of the verse, James and John came seeking places of prominence in His kingdom. This, of course, brought internal strife among the band of disciples. The ambition of these two was the leadership and authority which Gentiles love to grasp. But our Lord insisted that the ideal of Christian life is service—not to wield power over others but to serve them. “For the Son of man is come”…to do that!

The Saving Purpose of It

Look at the word “ransom.” What does it mean? It is the price paid for another’s release. It is a common expression in our own day. Evil men will take rich men as hostages, then hold them for ransom. This was the Old Testament concept—a man could be ransomed at a price (Exodus 21:30). Slaves could be set free by another’s payment of ransom for him. Our Lord thus explains His death in terms of a ransom. But to whom was the ransom paid? Certainly not to the devil, for the devil had no claim on man of God’s creation. I would judge it was a ransom paid to God’s justice. It was paid by the love of God to the justice of God to satisfy the claims of God’s holy law. Our business is to lay claim to that which the ransom has purchased—our liberty and freedom, that we might evermore love and serve Him who thus purchased us.

How affecting is this view of the Saviour’s sufferings! How beautiful His disposition in undergoing all this to ransom us! Like a meek lamb He made no resistance. He knew from eternity all that would be involved—the agonies of Gethsemane—the traitor’s kiss—the disciples’ desertion—the impious taunts of Jewish rulers—the brutality of the Jewish populace and Roman soldiery—the cross—the sepulchre—but all was willingly endured that sin might be expiated—Satan dethroned—death abolished—and God glorified to the uttermost through such redeeming grace. How well we do when we come to offer our thanks and praise and worship before Him!

Son of the Lord most high
Who gave the worlds their birth,
He came to live and die,
The Son of man on earth.
In Bethlehem’s stable born was He,
And humbly bred in Galilee.

Toiling by night and day,
Himself off burdened sore,
Where hearts in bondage lay,
Himself their burden bore:
Till, scorned by those He died to save,
Himself in death, in life, He gave.

O lowly majesty,
Lofty in lowliness!
Blest Saviour, who am I
To share Thy blessedness?
Yet Thou hast called me, even me,
Servant Divine, to follow Thee.

—George W. Briggs