The Son Gives Himself - Second Midweek in Advent
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Mark 10:45
December 09, 2020

I invite you once again this Advent season into a meditation on our God as Holy Trinity. Specifically, we are meditating on how the Gospel reveals the persons of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Gospel leads us into a blessed reality as it shows us the Persons that lead us into the Trinity. This reality is that our God is personal and giving.

This giving is sacrificial giving. God gives Himself and He gives His all. He does this motivated by a love that looks for the well-being of the other; that abandons self-interest; that sets free the more it gives. And as it sets free, it receives back complete and total dedication in freedom.

God receives back this dedication from the one who understands in honesty and humility the situation between oneself and God. This situation arises when one stands before God in one’s own credentials, in one’s own name, in the pursuit of one’s own glory. The one who understands understands that claiming one’s own credentials, one’s own name, the pursuit of one’s own glory before God leads only to everlasting condemnation. So the one who understands understands the enormity and grace of what God has done in Christ, and this person gives thanks, praise, and all glory to God. Let us be those who understand.

Last week we reflected upon how God the Father so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16). Today we reflect upon how God the Son so loved the Father and so loved us with the same love with which the Father loves us, that He gave Himself. Our God as Trinity reveals a sacrificial giving that is not known by the religions and philosophies that know not the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus spoke important things about His sacrificial giving in a couple of places. One of them is in the Gospel reading we read a few moments ago: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom in the place of many” (Mark 10:45). In another place, Jesus said: “No one has greater love than this but to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. Jesus is the Son of Man. This is a title that captures at the same time Christ’s dignity as God and His identification with us human beings. He is the Son of Man of Daniel who comes with clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13; Mark 14:62). This is His divine dignity. He is Son of Man as the Second Adam, the representative of us all before God. Son of Man is an appropriate title for Jesus as Savior.

But now Jesus says the most radical thing. As this Son, He came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom.

Being served. This involves a person thinking of himself or herself as being worthy of ruling over others; of being worthy of receiving the service of others to their own glory and benefit. And so the person expects and behaves in such a way that reflects this. Others must serve their interests.

Our Gospel reading tells us about James and John, the sons of the Zebedee. They are a reflection of being served. “Jesus, please let us sit on your right hand and on your left in your glory,” they say (Mark 10:37).

What are they are asking for? They want power. They want to lord it over. They want to exercise control. They want their interests served by others (Mark 10:42). And they think they are entitled to it by their name and by how much they think they have given. This can be seen in the text because it identifies them as the Sons of Zebedee. And they left everything and followed Jesus when He called. We can recall the time when Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee and He called to James and John to follow Him. They did. They left their father and their business and followed Jesus (Mark 1:20). Maybe they thought this entitled them to the reward of power and control in Christ’s kingdom.

You do not know what you are asking, Jesus says to them. Are you able to drink the cup I am drinking? Are you able to undergo the baptism that I am undergoing? (Mark 10:38). Are you able to give yourself sacrificially all the way to the death?

James and John are so blind at this point. They say with a cocky kind of confidence that knows not what it is saying: We are.

Well Jesus says that they will dink the cup and undergo the baptism, but it is a cup and baptism of suffering, of self-sacrifice, of martyrdom. It will be a cup chosen for them.

Fortunately, we can say of them that when the cup and the baptism came for them, they were prepared to bear it willingly. They were prepared by that time because they had seen Jesus risen and had received humility born from faith by the Spirit through the crucified and risen Jesus.

But then Jesus says that the sitting on the right and on the left is for those for whom it has been prepared. It is a gift given by the Father. It cannot be taken. It cannot be earned. It is a matter of vocation. It operates on the basis of the Word of God and on principle.

The other ten disciples heard this, and they became angry, which is what indignant means. What an ugly picture of the church militant we see in this group of twelve in our text.

Now maybe their anger was understandable or maybe it wasn’t. On the one hand, maybe it was motivated by thinking that they should be the ones sitting in those positions of power, not James and John. In that case, their anger was motivated by the same self-interested pursuit of power that James and John exhibited. On the other hand, maybe their anger was motivated out of a deeper sense of grief over the powerplay and the damage it does. The deeper motivation is seeking to act on principle, being interested in the truth, trying to be impartial, and offering oneself for the good of the community. But even this kind of anger can make the person feel yucky. For even this kind of anger is had by a sinner. But this kind of anger is understandable, while the other is not. Praise God for forgiveness.

Jesus radical talk continues. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom in the place of many. The Son of Man is the only one who has the right and entitlement to be served. But He came to serve. And this service is a giving. And this giving is a ransom in the place of many. He pays a price for others.

The many are in a bad place. They are in captivity to sin and death. There is a price that can free them but they themselves cannot pay the price. Being in such captivity is a place of unworthiness. They brought it about by their own doing. They have a deep selfish corruption by nature, and they have acted on it in so many ways contrary to the will of God and to the harm of others. Who could possibly be willing to pay the ransom price to free them, such a motley and unworthy crew? Certainly not the Son of Man? Certainly not God the Son? Certainly not the one who has all right to receive absolute service from all.

Yes, most certainly, the Son of Man. Yes, most certainly, God the Son in human flesh appearing. Why certainly? Because we hear Him say it: The Son of Man came to serve and to give His life as the ransom. We see Him do it as He goes all the way to the cross for us. He drinks the cup in full for us. He fulfills the baptism with which He is baptized for us.

And what could motivate this Son of Man to do such a thing. He is motivated by His love and the Father’s love, which abandons self-interest and operates to bring good things and acceptance in grace and mercy to the penitent sinner. No one has greater love than this but to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Jesus Himself fulfills His own words for our sake.

The Son of Man has done this for us. His motivation is love. His dedication to us is complete. His sacrifice is completely willing. And so He says, “Here I take your burden on myself. I gladly bear it. I gladly pay the price to set you free. I want to do it and I can. And don’t worry, I will live again after I am done, and we will both rejoice in the victory I have won for you in the love and peace of God.”

And so we see the Holy Trinity again as our personal and giving God, revealed to us as the Son gives Himself as the ransom for us. As such, our God is our Savior, and as such, our God is our inspiration.

Amen.



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