As we journey through the Witness of Mark, we want to encourage you to first begin with the Daily Reading that will take you through the entire book of Mark. Then, read the First 15 Scripture and Reflection to dive a little deeper into verses from the Daily Reading.
Today's daily reading is: Mark 10:32-45
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Why did Jesus come, and why did he die?
What do you think? By offering an answer you join a long line of pastors, theologians, and laypeople across time and space who have looked upon the life of Jesus and wondered about his mission and his particular end. Many have traced their answer to this story and to the idea that Jesus gave his life as a “ransom.” This saying in Mark is also recorded in Matthew 20:28. What does it mean?
A ransom is a sum of money or other payment demanded or paid for a prisoner’s release. The Church Fathers immediately seized upon the idea that Christ gave up his life as a ransom to rescue and redeem humanity from sin, death, and Satan. In some arguments, God the Father received Christ’s death as recompense or satisfaction for our wrongdoings. Saint Augustine wrote that the Cross was like a trap, set for the devil, who by shedding the blood of Jesus put himself in God’s debt. As repayment, Satan released those held in bondage, human beings who stood under the sway of sin.
The theological term that comes into view here is atonement, or how humanity is reconciled or united with God. The ransom theory of the atonement has been debated for centuries. In the fourth century, Athanasius of Alexandria argued that Jesus was the perfect human being who made perfect satisfaction for our sin. Athanasius stated that where the first man, Adam, failed, the second Adam, Christ, proved faithful, and through unity with Christ, we now receive healing, redemption, and restoration from the curse of sin. In the eleventh century, a theologian named Anselm argued persuasively that God could not owe a debt to Satan, for the two are not equals and Satan himself is a rebel and an outcast. In the twentieth century, a Lutheran theologian named Gustaf Aulén argued in his book Christus Victor that the death of Jesus Christ emancipated humanity from sin and death through the cross and resurrection and refuted the idea that Jesus’ death was somehow a cosmic business transaction.
The debate over the atonement is not over. Theologians agree that Jesus did rescue and redeem us from sin and death, delivered us from the power of Satan, and reunited us with God, yet they differ on the question of how. Perhaps this is because the work of Christ is too wonderful to ever fully comprehend, though we can make an effort. I think the various perspectives inform, enrich, and sharpen one another. Redemption is a glorious thing, rich and beautiful to behold.
Jesus, in his understanding of his vocation, saw himself as a servant and as a ransom. His servitude was of the ultimate variety, for he gave all of himself in order to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. In doing so, Jesus not only accomplished our redemption, but set an example for us of what service truly looks like. But Jesus also, in some way, paid a debt he did not owe or satisfied a demand that was not his to meet so that those in bondage could be set free.
Why did he do this?
For you. For me.
Because he trusted his Father and wanted to glorify him through obedience.
For salvation. For freedom.
Jesus, you came as a servant and gave your life as a ransom for many, even me. Let me respond rightly to your sacrifice, your love, your redemption, to worship you, and to serve. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.