It was humanly impossible for the disciples to free themselves from their selfish pursuit of self-exaltation, just as it’s impossible for us to free ourselves from the very same sins. But God accomplishes that which is humanly impossible! He pays the price for our freedom, and that price is the sinless Son of God’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross.

The Good News

How will God save? He will save by executing His Son— for the sake of rich young rulers, for the sake of James and John, for the sake of ten indignant disciples, and for the sake of proud sinners like you and me. How will God free us from the prison of pride? How can we be liberated from the dominating power of the world’s empty definitions of greatness?

For those who feel the effect of their serious condi¬tion, who realize their humanly unalterable condition, the good news is that there’s One who appears on the scene and says this: “I’ve come. I’m leading the way. I’m moving relentlessly to the place where I’ll be nailed to a cross and lifted up as the ultimate example of suffering, and there the concentrated fury of the Father’s wrath for your sins will be visited upon Me. And I will groan, for I am sinless and I’m unfamiliar with any sin, with even a single sin. Yet on that cross I will experience the sins of many visited upon My body. And I will die.”

This is the death that awaits Him. But joy will follow His suffering: the certain joy of knowing His death has ransomed the many!

That’s the effect of the atoning death of the Son of God.

If God Wants Us Back

In The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance, Leon Morris describes our humanly unalterable condition in this way:
God created man, created him to be His own…. God set him in Eden to live in fellowship with Him, but man sinned. Man became the slave of evil. He cannot break free. This is precisely the situation that the ancient world saw as calling for an act of redemption. We who belong to God have gotten into the power of a strong enemy from which we cannot break free. If I can say it rever¬ently, God, if He wants us back, must pay the price.

And the great teaching of the New Testament is that God has paid the price. He has redeemed us. Christ became our Redeemer…. To release the slaves of sin He paid the price. We were in captivity. We were in the strong grip of evil. We could not break free. But the price was paid and the result is that we go free.

That’s exactly right. We do go free! We’re ransomed…lib¬erated…forgiven of our sins. What a relief!

And then we’re transformed throughout our lifetimes into the image of His Son, serving others for the glory of God. That’s the effect of this sacrifice: Many are ransomed, many are transformed. Including James and John. Because this account in Mark 10 is not the final chapter in their story.

James and John Transformed

James and John were ransomed by the Savior’s death and forgiven of their pride and all their sins. And they would be transformed as well, from self-confident men into humble servants who would live to serve others with the gospel for the glory of God.

And they would suffer.

After Christ’s resurrection and ascension, James was the first of the apostles to be martyred, as we read early in the book of Acts: “About that time Herod the king laid vio¬lent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:1–2).

Scripture tells us, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). How profoundly precious in His eyes must have been the sight of this once self-confident and selfishly ambitious man kneeling down while the executioner’s sword was raised above him! What had transformed James? What had happened between Mark 10 and Acts 12?