This past Sunday I taught a lesson to the high school group at Christ Community Church on the Christmas message, and I used Mark 10 as my text. It’s not a typical text to use for the meaning of Christmas, but I found the passage to be quite relevant. So in this post I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the true meaning of Christmas, and I hope you will enjoy.
Christmas Is About. . .
It’s about the Son of God, who existed eternally with the Father as "the radiance of his glory and the exact representation of his nature," taking on human nature and becoming a man (Hebrews 1:3).
It’s about the birth of a man by a virgin conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit so that he is the Son of God, not the way you and I are sons of God, but in an utterly unique way (Luke 1:35).
It’s about the coming of a man named Jesus in whom "all the fullness of deity was pleased to dwell" (Colossians 2:9).
Christmas is about the coming of the Son of Man who "came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45)
Whoever Wishes to Become Great. . .Shall Be Slave of All
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”
38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
39 They said to Him, “We are able.”
So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; 40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”
41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. 42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Jesus tells James and John that they must drink the same cup and be baptized in the same baptism as Him if they want to reign in the kingdom. In other words, they must be willing to die (drink the same cup), and be immersed in suffering (in the same baptism). The pathway to glory and to kingship is through suffering and death. If you want the kind of honor James and John are asking for, you must follow Christ in suffering and death. So he has taken their desire for glory and shown them that the path to glory is a pathway through suffering and death.
A Servant of All…
44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. If we want to become great we must become a servant of all. But what does slave of all mean? In the next verse, (10:45) he gives an example of what he means, namely, himself. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Notice the point here is serving that results in dying -- a giving up of his life. So in verse 38, when he showed James and John the way to glory, he said that they would need to drink his cup and share his baptism, namely, death. And here in verse 45, when he shows the rest of the disciples the way to greatness, he gives his own death as an example: "the Son of Man came to give his life as a ransom for many." In both cases he is giving his death as an example of the kind of suffering and service that the disciples are called to.
The Radical Call to Be Served By Jesus…
Now in that context Jesus gives a powerful Christmas promise of future grace. He says in verse 45 that this radical call to discipleship -- this call to come and drink the cup of suffering and service -- this is not a call to serve Jesus, but a call to be served by Jesus as we serve others and to be ransomed by him from death. The good news (the good news of Christmas) is that the radical call to Christian discipleship is not a call to serve Jesus, but to be served by Jesus as we serve others, and to be ransomed by him from death. This is the Son of Man serving us! Ransoming us from our sins and our deaths! Refusing to be served by us. Insisting on being the Servant and the Savior in our lives. How great is our God!
Ultimately, Jesus is saying, Christmas means that the Son of Man comes. And when he comes he demands something and he promises something. He demands our lives. All of it. He demands that we take on a life-style that sacrifices everything for the sake of serving others (Luke 14:33). This is hard. In fact, it is impossible. That’s what Jesus said to the disciples in Mark 10:27 when they said, "Who then can be saved?" He said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God." It is impossible to drink the cup of suffering. It is impossible to become everybody’s servant. UNLESS . . . Unless the Son of Man is serving you day and night.
Mark 10:45 is what turns Christianity into gospel. We need someone who can forgive our sins and ransom us from guilt and death and the wrath of God, and who can give us a new life with the power to die for each other in the service of love. That is what Christmas is all about. That is what Mark 10:45 is all about. He comes to do two things. One: to give his life as a ransom for many. And he comes, secondly, to serve his disciples. He is our Redeemer from guilt and death and hell. He is our helper day in and day out as he serves us by the power of his Spirit.
This Christmas I challenge you to remember the bitter cup your Lord and Savior willingly tasted on the cross, and the baptism of suffering he endured for your sake. Have a great Christmas.