Ransom for Many

After predicting his death, two disciples began jockeying for positions of high status in his 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 “wherever he goes.” However, in Jerusalem, he would demonstrate just how one achieves “greatness” in the Kingdom of God.

In his words and deeds, Jesus revealed just what Kingdom citizenship means - self-sacrificial service to others. But as he approached the city, even his closest followers continued to hold a different understanding of his Kingdom.

Beach Rainbow - Photo by Pete Godfrey on Unsplash
[Photo by Pete Godfrey on Unsplash]

After predicting his death, James and John asked Jesus to install them at his right and left sides when he came “
into his glory.” Despite all they had seen, they remained incapable of understanding his words. They were yet “dull of hearing.”

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

As they drew near the city, the disciples expected him to manifest his glory and destroy Israel’s enemies. However, to reign with Jesus his disciple 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 image of a “cup” symbolized something given or allotted by God, and frequently in the negative sense of judicial punishment for sin. The idea of drinking this “cup” pointed to Jesus enduring the wrath of God on account of the sins of others. Likewise, the context indicates the same sense for his metaphorical use of the phrase “baptism” - (Psalm 11:6, 16:5, Isaiah 57:17-22, Jeremiah 25:15-28).

In the English translation, the clause “I, myself” represents the emphatic pronoun in the Greek text (egō). It is used four times in the passage by Jesus, stressing his Messianic role. His death was the event that inaugurated the Kingdom.


Contrary to the world, “GREATNESS” in his Kingdom is measured by self-sacrificial service, not political rank, or dominion over others. His disciples are called to serve, not to lord it over their companions. 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, a word used elsewhere 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, and Luke applies it in this very manner - “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).

Thus, 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 the role of the Messiah even though he was appointed by God to reign 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. Jesus used the term “soul” in the Old Testament sense of the entire person, both the physical and non-physical aspects. Thus, he gave his entire being for the benefit of others.

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

  • (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.”

Rainbow over field - Photo by Eugene on Unsplash
[Photo by Eugene on Unsplash]

Jesus referred to the “
many” for whom he gave his life. This did not mean a limited or exclusive company. It is a verbal link to the passage in Isaiah where “the many” referred to the “transgressors.” The contrast is not between “many” and “all,” but between the one Messiah who gives his life and the many beneficiaries of his act.

The passage in Isaiah is also his source of the term “soul.” Just as the Servant of Yahweh “poured out his soul,” so the “Son of Man” offered his life as the price to free others from slavery to sin and death.

His real-life example is the paradigm for how anyone follows Jesus and achieves “Greatness” in the Kingdom of God. He must first of all become the “servant and slave of all.”

  • Salvation for the Nations - (The Gospel of the Kingdom announced by Jesus of Nazareth offers salvation and life to men and women of every nation and people)
  • Servant of the Lord - (At his baptism in the Jordan, the voice from heaven identified Jesus as the Son of God and the Servant of Yahweh)
  • Road to Calvary - (On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus explained his Messianic Mission and predicted his inevitable death at the hands of his enemies - Mark 8:27-38)



Salvation for the Nations

His Name is Jesus