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August 31, 2011 / Daniel

The King is the Servant (Mark 10:45)

Last week I brought up the Messianic Secret motif in the gospel of Mark.  My theory is that Jesus downplays his identity until his death on the cross in order that he might rework the disciples’ understanding of the Messiah. They think that the Messiah is a conquering King. He shows the disciples that the Messiah must first be a suffering Servant. Mark 10:45 is the central theme of the gospel.

“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 redefinition of the Messiah is at the heart of Mark’s gospel.  The King is a servant.

In this verse, Jesus brings together two different OT passages in a very profound way.  The first is Daniel 7, the source of the title “Son of Man.”   In Daniel 7, the prophet Daniel has a terrible dream, a nightmare where he sees these four different beasts turn into monsters and they are threatening to devour God’s people.  But when things couldn’t seem to get any worse, a mysterious figure appears “like the Son of Man” riding on the clouds of heaven and he stands before the throne of the Ancient of Days and he is given a kingdom and power and authority. It is the Messiah, the future king of Israel in all of his glory, defeating the enemies of God’s people.

What is astonishing about how Jesus uses Daniel 7 is that Jesus ties it to Isaiah 53, the song of the Suffering Servant:

3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

It’s easy to see how shocking this must be been to the disciples. It must have been hard to grasp that the Victorious Son of Man in Daniel 7 is none other than the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53.   And yet, the only way to the kingdom is through the cross.  Without the cross, there’s no kingdom. Without the crucifixion of Christ, there can be no resurrection.  It’s Christ’s suffering that makes the kingdom even possible.    Jesus, the King of Israel, must come twice on behalf of His people.  Once to deal with sin with the sin and then to vindicate His people.   Apart from Jesus’ death on the cross, His kingdom will be empty.  Unholy people cannot stand in the presence of a Holy God.  God must deal with sin.  The ultimate sacrifice for sin must be made.   That’s why He laid down His life for you and me.  And what’s more?  That’s what He calls us to do for each other.

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