Ransom for Many

Disciples of Jesus are summoned to self-sacrificial service for others just as Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many. After predicting his death, two disciples began jockeying for positions of high status in Christ’s coming Kingdom. Thinking according to the ways of this world, they did not comprehend what kind of Messiah Jesus was, and therefore, what it meant to follow him. However, in Jerusalem, he would demonstrate exactly how one becomes “Great” in the Kingdom of God.

In his words and deeds, Jesus revealed the meaning of Kingdom citizenship - Self-sacrificial service to others and the Gospel. As he approached Jerusalem, even his closest followers still harbored worldly views about his Kingdom and reign. James and John asked Jesus to install them at his right and left sides when he came “into his glory.” Despite all they had witnessed, they failed to understand the words of the Son of God. They remained “dull of hearing.”

Rainbow Peak - Photo by Look Up Look Down Photography on Unsplash
[Photo by Look Up Look Down Photography on Unsplash]

Contrary to the political ideologies of this age, suffering and death precede glory and exaltation in the Kingdom of God. To be the Messiah and King of Israel meant becoming the suffering “
Servant of Yahweh” described in the Book of Isaiah.

As they drew near the city, the disciples expected Jesus to manifest his glory and impose his reign on the Earth, and they certainly wanted to participate in it. However, to reign with Jesus his disciples must first “drink his cup.”

  • (Mark 10:35-40) - “Grant to us that we may sit in your glory, one on your right and one on your left. But Jesus said to them, You know not what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I, MYSELF am drinking, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I, MYSELF am being baptized?

In the Hebrew Bible, the “cup” symbolizes something given or allotted by God, usually in the negative sense of judicial punishment for sin. The image of drinking his “cup” meant Jesus would endure the wrath of God for others. Likewise, the context indicates the same sense for the metaphorical use of the phrase, “My baptism” - (Psalm 11:6, 16:5, Isaiah 57:17-22, Jeremiah 25:15-28).

When James and John declared they were prepared to drink this “cup,” the response of Jesus demonstrated they had no idea what that meant. However, they would drink the same “cup” one day when they suffered for his Kingdom.

In the English translation, the clause “I, myself” represents the emphatic pronoun in the Greek text or egō. It occurs four times in the passage on the lips of Jesus, stressing his Messianic role. The death of the “Son of Man” would inaugurate the Kingdom.

Greatness” in his Kingdom would be measured by self-sacrificial service for others, not political power, rank, or popularity. His disciples were called to serve, not to lord it over others.

The disciple who wished to become “great” must first become the “servant” and “slave” of all. The English term “servant” translates the Greek noun diakonos, used elsewhere in the New Testament for a “servant” or “minister.”

  • (Mark 10:41-45) - “Jesus says to them, ‘You know that those considered rulers of the nations, lord it over them and their great ones take dominion over them. Yet not so is it among you, but whoever desires TO BECOME GREAT among you, he will be YOUR SERVANT, and whoever desires to be chief among you will become the SLAVE OF ALL, for even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and TO GIVE HIS SOUL AS A RANSOM INSTEAD OF MANY.”

In secular Greek, diakonos referred to servants who waited on tables. The Gospel of Luke applies diakonos in this way - “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the ONE WHO SERVES? But I am among you as the one who serves” - (Luke 22:26-27).


Jesus came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his soul as a ransom instead of many.” That is how he fulfilled his Messianic role even though God appointed him to reign as Sovereign over the nations – (Psalm 2:6-9).

He became the “servant and slave of all” when he offered his “soul” as a ransom for others, including his enemies. In the passage, Jesus uses the term “soul” in the Old Testament sense of the entire person - The physical and non-physical aspects. In other words, he gave his being, his “life,” for men, women, and children.

The preposition translated as “instead of” or anti means “on behalf of, in exchange for.” Behind this saying is the passage describing the “Servant of Yahweh” in the Book of Isaiah:

  • (Isaiah 53:11-12) - “Therefore, will I give him a portion in the great, and the strong shall he apportion as spoil because he poured out to death HIS OWN SOUL, and with transgressors let himself be numbered, Yea, HE THE SIN OF MANY BARE, AND FOR TRANSGRESSORS HE INTERPOSES.”

The term “many” did not mean a limited or exclusive company. In Isaiah, it referred to the “transgressors” for whom the “Servant” died. The contrast was not between “many” and “all,” but between the one Messiah who gave his life and the many beneficiaries of that act.

Rainbow over farm - Photo by Ryan Milrad on Unsplash
[Photo by Ryan Milrad on Unsplash]

The passage in 
Isaiah is also the source for the term “soul” heard here on the lips of Jesus. Just as the Servant of Yahweh poured out “his soul,” so the “Son of Man” offered his “soul” as the ransom price in exchange for the “MANY.” His surrendered life was the cost of liberating others from slavery to sin and death.

His real-life example on the Cross is the paradigm for how a man becomes a disciple of Jesus, reigns with him and achieves “greatness” in his Father’s kingdom. The disciple is first and always a “servant and slave of all,” not a lord or tyrant, and especially of his fellow disciples. The greatest privilege and honor in the Kingdom of God is to be accounted worthy to suffer and even endure martyrdom for Jesus and the Gospel.

  • The Anointed Servant - (Following his baptism in the Jordan, the voice from heaven identified Jesus as the Son of God and the Servant of Yahweh)
  • The Servant of Yahweh - (Disciples are summoned to adopt the same mind that Jesus had when he poured out his life unto death for others – Philippians 2:5-11)
  • Servant or Caesar? - (Satan offered Jesus unlimited political power to achieve his messianic mission if only he acknowledged the Devil as his overlord)



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