Greatness in His Kingdom

His disciple is called to engage in self-sacrificial service for others just as Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many. After predicting his death, two of the disciples began jockeying for positions of high status in his coming Kingdom. Thinking according to the ways of this world with its concepts of political power, they did not comprehend what kind of Messiah Jesus was and remains, and therefore, what it meant to follow him “wherever he goes.” However, in Jerusalem, he would soon demonstrate just how one achieves “Greatness” in the Kingdom of God.

In his words and deeds, Jesus revealed just what Kingdom citizenship means - self-sacrificial service to others. But as he approached the city, even his closest followers continued to hold a very different and worldly understanding of HIS Kingdom.

Cross on Rocks - Photo by Philippe Bout on Unsplash
[Photo by Philippe Bout on Unsplash]

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

Contrary to the political ideologies of this age, in HIS Kingdom, SUFFERING AND DEATH PRECEDE GLORY AND EXALTATION. To be the Messiah and King of Israel means becoming the suffering “Servant of Yahweh” described in the Book of Isaiah.

As they drew near the city, the disciples expected Jesus to manifest his glory, impose his reign over the Earth, and destroy Israel’s enemies. However, to reign with Jesus his 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 image of a “cup” symbolizes something given or allotted by God, and frequently in the negative sense of judicial punishment for sin.

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 the same sense for his metaphorical use of the phrase, “My baptism” - (Psalm 11:6, 16:5, Isaiah 57:17-22, Jeremiah 25:15-28).

When James and John declared they were prepared to drink from this “cup,” the response of Jesus demonstrated that they had no idea what that meant. Eventually, they would drink the same “cup” when they also suffered for his Kingdom.

In the English translation, the clause “I, myself” represents the emphatic pronoun in the Greek text (egō). It occurs four times in the passage on the lips of Jesus to stress his Messianic role. The death of the “Son of Man” was the event that inaugurated the Kingdom.


Contrary to this world, “GREATNESS” in HIS Kingdom is measured by self-sacrificial service for others, not political power, rank, or dominion over others. HIS disciple is called to serve, not to lord it over his companions. The disciple who wishes to become “great” must first become the “SERVANT” and “SLAVE” of all. The English term “servant” translates the Greek noun diakonos, a word used elsewhere in the New Testament for a “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 often referred to servants who waited on tables. It is the term from which the church derived the title ‘Deacon.’ 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).


Thus, Jesus came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his soul a ransom instead of many.” That is how he fulfilled the role of the Messiah even though he was appointed by God to reign over the nations – (Psalm 2:6-9).

Moreover, he became the “servant and slave of all” when he offered his “soul” as a ransom for others. In the passage, Jesus uses the term “soul” in the Old Testament sense for the entire person, both the physical and non-physical aspects. In other words, he gave his entire being, his “life,” for others.

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

Jesus referred to the “many” for whom he gave his life. This did not mean a limited or exclusive company. It is a verbal link to the passage in Isaiah where “the many” refers to the “transgressors.” The contrast is not between “many” and “all,” but between the one Messiah who gives his life and the many beneficiaries of his act.

The passage in Isaiah is also his source for the term “soul.” Just as the Servant of Yahweh “poured out his soul,” so the “Son of Man” offered his “soul” as a ransom for the “MANY.” He presented his life as the price to free others from slavery to sin and death.

His real-life example is now the paradigm for how a man or woman follows Jesus, reigns with him and achieves “Greatness” in his Father’s kingdom. He or she is first and always a “servant and slave of all.”




On the Cruciform Road

The Gospel Message