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
In my previous post, I reflected on Jesus’ willingness to lay down his own life, because he was the only one with the authority to make that choice.
Jesus had to remind his disciples that though he carried an authority that meant he could reasonably expect others to serve Him (implicit in the title ‘Son of Man’), that was not his purpose in coming. Rather, His authority empowered Him to come and serve others, even laying down his life for them.
So what does His death achieve?
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus says He will give his life “as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). This is done, He says, as an act of service – to the Father, for us.
We might think of a ransom being associated with kidnapping. But in Jesus’ day it was the word that describes how slaves (people who had given up their freedom in order to work for somebody), could pay a price to their master ( i.e. a ‘ransom’) in order to buy back their freedom and be released from their obligation to work for their master any longer.
Freedom for Many
In this way, Jesus understands that His death is about bringing freedom to people who are enslaved, and His one life is worth the ransom price for many (all) people to achieve their freedom.
Lots of Christians think they just need to be forgiven from their sin, but in reality we also need to be set free from our slavery to sin. This is how Jesus understood his death… as a ransom that He had the authority to pay in order to set others free. This is in line with Jesus’ own announcement of His mission in Luke 4, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … to proclaim liberty to the captives”.
Too many Christians limit the efficacy of Jesus’ death to some kind of holy ‘get out of jail free’ card each time they are overwhelmed with an awareness of their sinfulness, without realizing that Jesus’ death knocked down and demolished the prison of sin once and for all! … Now we get to be ‘slaves of righteousness’, paid for by a righteous and loving Father!
The apostle Paul writes at length in the letter to the Romans about Christ’s death setting us free from slavery to sin (read Romans 6 for an example).
You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!” – Romans 6:16-18 MSG
Questions for Reflection:
1) Do you tend to think more in terms of being forgiven for your sins or being set free from your sins? Do you think there is a difference between forgiveness and freedom?
2) What would it mean for you to know that Jesus wants to set you free from your bondage to sin? What sins do you want to be set free from, not just forgiven for?