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LSB Lent 5B Sermon – Mark 10:32-45

March 24, 2015

March 22, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

The reason for Jesus’ presence on earth is not kept secret. From the Annunciation to Holy Week, this purpose has been disclosed. Sometimes it was in the messages that the angels brought: “She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” There were the testimonies made about Jesus by those who witnessed Him: “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” And then there are the statements that Jesus makes about Himself, as He reveals what His work is meant to do: “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

Today’s Gospel Reading included statements that Jesus makes about His purpose in the world. He declares to the Twelve what will happen to Him: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him. And after three days He will rise.” But these actions that Jesus undergoes has a result: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

As the calendar turns and the fifth week of Lent is begun, the Church begins to sharpen its focus on what Jesus did to accomplish this purpose. Speaking about Jesus’ death is a weekly and daily exercise in the Church. It is the heart of the Christian faith, as you will confess in the Creed and in the Liturgy of the Sacrament. But as Holy Week draws near, this act of Jesus’ giving His life as a ransom for many becomes the central thought that the Church considers.

When Jesus speaks this way to His disciples, He is emphasizing His role. He identifies Himself as something given for the freedom of another. That is the purpose of a ransom. You know that from the news accounts about individuals who have been imprisoned or kidnapped. That has been part of our recent events, as the debate arises whether our nation’s government should pay a ransom for citizens who have been captured by ISIS. Should money be given so that a captive is set free?

Jesus states that He is a ransom. That is why He is in the world. “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve….” And the way that He performs service is stated: “to give His life as a ransom for many.” That is the reason behind Jesus’ going up to Jerusalem. He goes there to offer up His life. And it will take place as Jesus endures the betrayal to the chief priests and scribes, hears their condemnation of Him, suffers the indignity of being handed over to the Gentiles to be mocked, beaten, and killed. This is how His life will be given. This is the liturgy of sacrifice that Jesus will enact.

As Jesus does so, He becomes the high priest above all high priests. The work of the high priest was to make the sacrifice that would free people from their sins. That is what the LORD established and instituted. This is the basis for what the author of Hebrews writes: “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” This was a role of service that was assigned to them. Their position and all the status accorded to it were for the purpose of completing that act of sacrifice which would bring forgiveness of sins.

The author of Hebrews notes that Jesus also acts as a high priest: “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” This description speaks about the service that Jesus offers. Though He was the Son of God, He obeyed and suffered. Jesus has authority and power, but their use is for the benefit of others. And the sacrifice that Jesus offers is Himself, as He states: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

This makes Jesus the Great Intercessor for the entire creation. His work of service is for all. Atonement is made for all. Reconciliation is made for all. That is the result of the Son of God offering His life as a ransom for all that were ensnared and entrapped by sin. This is the reason why He was in the world. His role of using His power and authority for service was completed. That is what you will hear on Good Friday, as Jesus’ great statement from the cross is again recalled: “It is finished.”

You are beneficiaries of this work that Jesus completed. It is why you turn to Him for forgiveness, life, and salvation. Those are the results of His ransom-giving death. His life was given for you. He offered sacrifice for you. He is the source of eternal salvation for you who obey Him. He is the high priest that the LORD has designated for you, who always places His sacrifice in front of the LORD.

But this dialogue that Jesus has with His disciples speaks about the actions that flow from this. Notice how Jesus talks to the company of disciples after they became indignant with James and John: “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

When Jesus speaks this way, He is indicating what is expected of those who follow Him. That expectation is rooted in what Jesus has already done: He became servant and slave of all. But as people follow His way of life, they take on the same type of actions. Being a disciple of Jesus is a privileged status. You are the people that the LORD described through the prophet Jeremiah: “I will put My Law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” You have become part of the kingdom of God. You are part of the divine household. You have an inheritance of eternal life. You will be with Jesus when He enters into His glory.

But what does that entitle you to here on earth? It entitles you to a role like Jesus took upon Himself for you. You have been assigned to be part of a priestly nation, one that makes intercession and sacrifice on behalf of mankind. Now that doesn’t mean that you are making atonement for sin. That is what the high priest does. And that is what Jesus has done once for all time. But it does mean that you pray for the benefit of all people. It means that you utilize your time, money, and abilities to assist them. And you also proclaim the work that Jesus did—His being betrayed, condemned, beaten, crucified, and then rising from death—for the salvation of all. You speak how Jesus gave His life as a ransom for them.

This is the reason why you are in the world. Your privileged status does not entitle you to be lords and masters over mankind. That is not what the kingdom of God does in this life and world. Jesus’ disciples are not called to establish the Christian State in Iraq and Syria or in Europe or South America or the United States. But you are called to keep the ways that the LORD has established, to live them out, to hold fast to the new covenant that has been instituted. And that is summarized by Jesus, as you will hear on Holy Thursday: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” That is the meaning of what Jesus stated to the Twelve: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”

None of this is you have taken upon yourself. You have been appointed to be the servant priesthood because Jesus has ransomed you and given you this identity. It began at your baptism, just as it did today for Molly. For there you were joined with Jesus who died and rose from death, so that you might live. Now you can offer up your prayers and supplications, now you can offer your service, and the One who is able to save you from death will hear because of your reverence. And as others receive the service that you give for them, you can be the conduits through which they are joined to the source of eternal life—the Son of Man who gave His life as a ransom for many.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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