Who Do You Say That He Is?–part 2

In the introductory post of this series, I made the point that it’s not difficult at all to believe something about Jesus Christ that has little to do with reality. And because of that, we’d do well to take stock of who we really believe Jesus is. Does the picture we have of him match who he’s revealed himself to be? That’s the crucially important question.

So I want to continue by looking at the biblical picture of Jesus. Over the next few posts on this topic we’ll look at Jesus from his own perspective, as well as through the eyes of those who closely followed him.

Mark 10:45 is fine place to start. It’s just one verse–just one short, but inexhaustibly profound sentence. Referring to himself, Jesus says this: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

First Jesus says he came not to be served but to serve. Though he’s God the Son, and has every right to be served by human beings, he humbled himself and became a servant. I would note in passing that already Jesus has given us a great deal to chew on. But I’d like to concentrate on the next phrase, where Jesus notes the highest demonstration of his servanthood: he says that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The significance of this phrase is almost impossible to overestimate. I say that because in Jesus’ own day the term “ransom” referred to the price it took to free someone from the bondage of slavery.

And to be sure, Jesus isn’t talking about those enslaved by some kind of human master. He’s actually speaking to a situation that’s much worse: the slavery of sin (see, e.g., John 8:34). In other words, he understood that there’s something about us—an ingrained part of our nature—that makes us lead lives that are displeasing to God. Every one of us—without exception—fails to obey him as we should. This is why Jesus can elsewhere assert, “No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:35; cf. Rom. 3:22-23)

And this slavery to sin is no small thing. It’s nothing short of a disaster. Why? Listen to what the apostle Paul writes to the Romans: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), i.e., the payment we earn for what we do is death. Likewise, Jesus himself offers, ““You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:23-24).

That means, biblically speaking, the greatest problem facing humanity is not hunger or poverty or terrorism or a lack of education—though all of those things are quite serious and areas in which Christians are responsible to be redemptive influences (see this previous post). No, our greatest, most fundamental problem is that every one of us stands as a guilty sinner before a holy God, and thus worthy of eternal punishment.

So that’s the situation that Jesus is speaking to when he says he came to give his life as a ransom for many. Accordingly, Jesus’ statement in Mark 10:45 functions as a remarkably clear indication of who he really is. Though many are willing to affirm that him as an inspirational leader or a great moral teacher (both then and now), Jesus himself claims much more. His own words reveal that he is the answer to our greatest and most fundamental problem—the problem of our sin and the punishment it justly deserves. Quite simply he’s the Savior that we so desperately need.

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