Hello, and welcome to Tuesday’s Foundation Podcast. We’re asking the question this week: What kind of life? What kind of life does Jesus call us to?
We began yesterday by looking at how we, as followers of Jesus, are called to a life of surrender, of letting go, and give it all to God. Today, we are going to look at another of the great calls Jesus issues his disciples with – the call to serve.
Our reading is Mark 10: 32-52. Our focus verse for today is verse 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.”
This is probably one of the most famous verses taken from the Gospel accounts. And one in which Mark, the writer of this Gospel, effectively builds his entire book around. Because for him this is the heart of God. This is who God is revealed to us in Jesus and what it means to follow him.
Throughout the Gospel accounts we see that a life centred and built on Jesus is a life of serving others. And like much of the Christian life, it sounds so straightforward but to actually put this into practice – significantly harder. As we say yesterday, there is a battle on. A battle between our old life and the new life Christ has won for us.
We see this in the passage also. Two of Jesus’ closest disciples, James and John, approach Jesus and request to sit at his right and left side when he comes into glory. To be given a place of prominence and power in this new kingdom Jesus was about to usher in. And it was a kingdom they believed, like many Jews, that would be won by force. However, as we see in Jesus’ predictions of what is to come, as he explains to his disciples, his way is not by might, by force, not to take, but to give:
“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.”
Jesus shows his disciples the way. The way this new kingdom will be established. A kingdom built on love, of preferring others, to serve. Like the disciples, we too often find that this way of life doesn’t come naturally!
I really experienced this whilst doing our discipleship year at STC. We, as a group, went away on a mission trip to Sicily to spend time with a group of Christians who were led by a couple, Marco and Cinzia, who were previously part of this church.
God spoke to me quite powerfully during that time and I remember that one of the things that stood out to me the most was how much this church family in Sicily knew how to celebrate. They were busy people – many with families and jobs of their own and in what little time they had left they were out serving the homeless, working with women who were at risk of being trafficked, working with teenagers who had found themselves mixed in gangs. And what struck me was – despite the really obvious challenges – amidst the busyness and at times slight chaos of life – the team of people serving there seemed so happy. So full of joy and life. Each night we were with them we found time to gather together for food, to give thanks, to share stories, to celebrate life.
God revealed something to me during our time away with them. He showed me that there was a gulf between how I was living my life then – a life built around striving to achieve in whatever field I had found myself – sports, in the classroom, in my work place and the life God had designed me for, the new life that Jesus has won for each of us.
Jesus came so that we may have more and better life. The paradox of the kingdom of God is we find this life as we seek to serve, to give, to be generous and to prefer others. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, Jesus says, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
What really struck me about that faithful group of believers in Sicily was the deep joy that they had through serving others. They were a people who were truly following in the footsteps of Jesus – the one who came to serve. And it brought them such joy.
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.
Thankfully, as we saw yesterday, Jesus doesn’t ask us to go where he hasn’t already gone.
The way of the world hasn’t changed. 2000 years on, like James and John, it’s still really all about me. Jesus’ death on the cross- the ultimate act of selflessness – pays the ransom, paves the way so that we can receive this new life that the Father has for us. Just as the Son of Man came to serve…so we are called to follow in his footsteps, to make daily decisions to prefer others, to serve. And in doing so we see that his kingdom comes not only into our lives and the lives of those around us.
Jesus, we thank you that you choose us. That you gave it all so that we could know life. We pray this day God that you would open our eyes to those around us and show us ways in which we can serve and bless them. To love those around us the way that you love us. Amen.
READING: Mark 10:32-52
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’
‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked.
They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’
‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?’
‘We can,’ they answered.
Jesus said to them, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.’
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 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.’
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means ‘son of Timaeus’), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’
Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’
So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’
‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.