The Savior had died as a ransom.

John, his brother, would be transformed as well. John was apparently the last of all the apostles to die, but he suf¬fered persecution and was banished to the island of Patmos. It’s obvious from the letters John wrote that he understood his Savior’s teaching on humble servanthood: “By this we know love, that [Christ] laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). John got it right.

What transformed John? What had happened between Mark 10 and the writing of John’s epistles?

The Savior had died as a ransom.

The James and John we see back in Mark 10 were emphatically not laying down their lives for others, but they would be wholly transformed. And the explanation for this transformation wasn’t just our Lord’s example but our Lord’s sacrifice. His sacrifice was a ransom for sin, and its effect was a liberation for James and John from their selfishness and patterns of pride.

Here were two men transformed into humble servants of the gospel and servants of the church by the Savior’s sacrifice. Two men who ended their lives truly great in the eyes of God.

Why? How?

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).


Seeing the Source

As you encounter those who humbly serve, know that they’re truly great in the eyes of God. But understand also the source of their serving. Their humble service should remind you of this death, this ransom, this price paid to liberate the one whom you now see serving.

Consider your own life for just a moment. Where would you be today if He hadn’t ransomed you, if He hadn’t liberated you? I’ll tell you where. You would be self¬-sufficient, seeking to cultivate self-confidence for the purpose of self-glorification.

But what has happened to you? If you’ve been gen¬uinely converted, you’ve been forgiven and transformed. And though for now there remains in you a temptation and tendency to sin, a fundamental and radical change has occurred so that you have the desire to serve others and to see God glorified. We know the inner call to lay down our lives for one another because He laid down His life for us.

What a powerful death! The cross ransoms, the cross liberates, the cross transforms! So make it your aim and lifelong habit, when you see someone who’s serving, to be reminded of the sacrifice of the Savior, for apart from His sacrifice there is no serving. True greatness is attained only be emulating the Savior’s example—and made possible only by the Savior’s sacrifice.