Servant of the Kingdom

After predicting his death, two of Christ’s disciples began jockeying for positions of high status in his coming kingdom. Thinking according to the ways of this world and its concepts of political power, they did not yet comprehend what kind of Messiah Jesus was, and therefore, what it meant to be his disciple. But he would soon demonstrate graphically just how anyone achieves “greatness” in the kingdom of God.

In his words and deeds, Jesus demonstrated what kingdom citizenship means - self-sacrificial service to others. But as he approached Jerusalem, even his closest followers continued to hold a very different and worldly vision of the kingdom of God.

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


Contrary to the political systems of this age, in his kingdom, SUFFERING AND DEATH PRECEDE GLORY AND EXALTATION.

As they drew near to the city, the disciples expected the Messiah of Israel would manifest his royal glory, impose his reign over the earth, and destroy the nation’s enemies. But according to Jesus of Nazareth, to reign with him, a 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 “cup” often symbolizes something given or allotted by God, and frequently in the negative sense of judicial punishment for sin.

Though not stated here, the idea of drinking this “cup” points to Jesus enduring the wrath of God on account of the sins of others. Likewise, the context indicates a similar sense for the metaphorical use of “my baptism” - (Psalm 11:6, 16:5, Isaiah 57:17-22, Jeremiah 25:15-28).

When the sons of Zebedee declare they are indeed prepared to drink from this “cup,” Christ’s response demonstrates they have no idea what this means. But eventually, they would drink the same “cup” when they also suffered for his kingdom.

In the translation of the passage, the clause “I, myself” represents the emphatic pronoun in the Greek text (egō), and it occurs four times in the passage on Christ’s lips to stress his messianic role - The death of the “Son of Man” is the event that inaugurated the kingdom.


Contrary to the wisdom of this world, “GREATNESS” in his kingdom is demonstrated by and measured in self-sacrificial service for others, not in political power, rank, or dominion over others. His disciple is a servant, not a master who lords it over his fellows and destroys his enemies.

And in his realm, the disciple who wishes to become “great” must first become the “SERVANT” and the “SLAVE” of all. The English term “servant” translates the Greek noun diakonos, a word used elsewhere as a general term for “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, the noun diakonos referred initially to servants who waited on tables. It is the term from which the church derives the title ‘deacon.’ And the gospel of 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).

The Greek verb rendered “served” in the passage is the verbal form of the noun diakonos, and most often in ancient Greek, it referred to slaves.


And Jesus points to himself as the one who came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his soul a ransom instead of many.” This is how he qualifies as the Messiah, Son, and King who wields the awesome authority of God over the nations.

Moreover, the “Son of Man” becomes the “servant and slave of all” when he offers his “soul” in death as a ransom for others. Here, Jesus uses the term “soul” in the Old Testament sense to refer to his entire person, both his physical and non-physical aspects. He gives his entire being or “life” for the sake of others.

The preposition rendered “instead of” or anti means “on behalf of, for, in place of, in exchange for.” Behind this saying is the passage describing the Suffering Servant 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.”

In Mark, Jesus refers to the “many” for whom he gives his life. This does not mean a limited or exclusive company. It is a verbal link to the passage in Isaiah where “the many” refers to the “transgressors.”

Moreover, the contrast is not between “many” and “all,” but between the one Christ who sacrifices his life and the many beneficiaries of his act.

The passage in Isaiah also is Christ’s source for the term “soul” in his words as recorded in Mark. Just as the Suffering Servant of Yahweh “poured out his soul,” so the “Son of Man” offers his “soul” as a ransom for the “MANY.”

In first-century society, a monetary “ransom” was paid to purchase the freedom of a slave. Likewise, Jesus now provides his life as the ransom price to free a great many others from slavery to sin and death.

And his concrete example is now the paradigm for what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to reign with him in his Father’s kingdom. To become “great” in his realm the disciple must first become a “servant and slave of all.”


Suffering Servant

The Living Word