By Heath Jarrett
Mark grew up a rich kid. Many from the Jerusalem church gathered in his mother's home. Considering the congregation's size, Mark's house must have been substantial. Additionally, the family employed at least one servant girl, Rhoda (See Acts 12:12–13). It's fair to say that Mark was wealthy and familiar with being served.
In light of this, his gospel displays a delightful nuance. At a pivotal point in his account, Mark highlights that Jesus, the Master of the universe, is a servant par excellence.
"But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 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 10:43–45).
While James and John clamor for honor, Jesus reminds them that greatness is reserved for "servants," a general word for a waiter, someone who mows your lawn, or the deacons of the church. Then Jesus pushes one step further, "and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all." The waiter goes home at the end of a shift. Landscapers go on vacation. The slave, however, remains in the house to faithfully serve the master. He who is greatest is the greatest slave.
Jesus deserves all of our service yet came to serve instead. And his greatest service was "to give his life as a ransom for many." We're captives who need freedom. We're barred in and need release. But the price is too high for us to pay. It is incalculable. Oh, what a hopeless condition unless someone has both the resources and compassion to spring us from this dreadful trap!
And that's when our patron comes to buy our freedom. The price was his blood and he willingly paid it for us. Jesus died our death to satisfy God's wrath, yes, but he also gave his life to purchase our liberty. The cost of our redemption should humble us. Indeed it should recalibrate our thoughts about what greatness is. Greatness is not exercised in lording over others but in serving them, even to the point of death, the greatest denial of self.
It took the infinite value of the Son to pay our ransom. Mark knew his affluence could never do it. He also had learned from the Master that greatness comes with a different price: serving. None have paid more than Christ. Shall we not follow his example?