For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Like today’s music, modern-day Siren songs come in different genres and styles, which is how they influence so many. The Siren song of narcissism—a self-absorbed preoccupation with personal achievement—is one of those songs. It’s the old classic, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19). It’s today’s popular single, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.”1 It’s the song that has stayed on America’s Top Forty for over 250 years, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” It even has a few Christian releases, “Live your best life now”2 and “Become a better you.”3
The song of narcissism turns on the self-love we each harbor. It tempts us to make ourselves the center—my potential, my esteem, my perceived needs, my rest, my status, my importance, my image, my happiness—and push everything and everyone to the periphery. People are tools to establish my brand, fulfill my goals, and make my dreams come true, not image-bearers to be served.4
The Battle of the Bands
There is a battle of the bands playing everywhere we turn. The Siren sings: You find greatness when others serve you; while the Son trumpets: Greatness is only given after you serve others for the sake of the Gospel.
Two songs. Two worldviews. Two choices. Which band is on your playlist?
Sent to Sacrifice
In the last post, we saw that Jesus was sent from heaven to earth to teach. In Mark 10:45, Jesus adds another purpose for His incarnation—He also came to serve. In fact, “serve” is not a strong enough word. He came to sacrifice Himself for the salvation of sinners. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
And though this verse does describe the nature of Christ’s atonement, understand, Jesus’ words are not primarily theological. They are practical. He is not calling His apostles to believe the doctrine of His death, but to model their lives after His death. To serve others as He served them. To sacrifice themselves, as He did, for the sake of the Gospel.
The King of Kings Is the Suffering Servant
The passage begins:
They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again (Mark 10:32–34).
As Jesus spoke these words, His death was imminent. He knew all that awaited Him as the Suffering Servant: betrayal, condemnation, mockery, and execution (Isaiah 53:3-7).
Yet, Jesus also knew His majesty. In verse 33, Jesus referred to Himself as “the Son of Man”—a reference to the glorious divine ruler prophesied in Daniel 7:13-14. He knew He was the one Daniel foresaw: the worthy one who will approach “the Ancient of Days” in a royal procession (Daniel 7:13); the Messianic King to whom God will give “dominion, glory and a kingdom;” and the final ruler whom “all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve” (Daniel 7:14). Jesus understood the glory due His name. He knew the worship He would one day receive.
And yet still, He walked towards Jerusalem, every step an act of sacrifice—a willful decision of the future King to soon bear the cross of the Suffering Servant.5
Narcissism in Christian Dress
In contrast to the humble King, stood James and John, preoccupied with their own fame and glory:
James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory (Mark 10:35–37).
This is narcissism in Christian dress. Vanity clothed in religiosity.
Blinded by pride, James and John pursued personal achievement at the expense of their fellow disciples, with a total disregard for the suffering just predicted by their Lord. While the cross was on Jesus’ mind, the desire for recognition filled their hearts.
And their narcissism was visible to all.
The Paradox of Greatness
Jesus did not take James and John’s request lightly. He confronted their self-centeredness, “You do not know what you are asking” (Mark 10:38). These men failed to understand the mechanics of Christ’s kingdom and the measure of true greatness. Posturing for the chief seats was not a request for present glory, but an appeal for present suffering.
In God’s economy, greatness comes through humble service, not self-exaltation.
Jesus then turned His words personal, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mark 10:38). “The cup” was an Old Testament symbol of suffering (Ps. 75:8; Isa. 5:17–23). “Baptism” literally means “to be dipped” or “to sink.” Suffering and agony would not sprinkle Jesus; it would immerse Him—a sacrifice Jesus then applied to His selfish apostles, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant” (Mark 10:43).
Do you see what Jesus just did? He redefined His disciples’ concept of greatness. James and John, do you truly want to be great in My kingdom? Then you must understand the cost. You must understand the paradox. Honor only comes through suffering, reward only through service. Greatness in My kingdom requires sacrifice in this life.
Levels of Greatness
Yet Jesus went even further—or should I say, lower. He explained that there are levels of greatness in His kingdom. Moving from servant language to slave language, Jesus continued, “Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:44, emphasis mine).
Note the progression: Greatness in Christ’s kingdom depends upon servanthood (Mark 10:43), but priority in Christ’s kingdom depends upon slavery (Mark 10:44).
The principle is this: The greater the sacrifice on earth, the greater the glory in eternity.
The Ultimate Example
The stage was now set for Jesus to drive this principle home. And He uses Himself as the ultimate example. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Why will Jesus be the great King of this coming kingdom? Why will He be “given dominion and glory” (Daniel 7:13)? Why will “all the peoples, nations and men of every language…serve Him” (Daniel 7:14)? Because He—the majestic, transcendent, eternal, all-glorious Son of Man—gave “His life as a ransom for many.”
The King will be exalted because the King will be slain.
Do not miss Jesus’ application. Greatness only comes through sacrifice, and that is what Christ expects from each of His people.
LIVING THE UNDISTRACTED LIFE
Sacrifice Worldly Recognition for the Glory of Christ
Today’s search for identity is at a crisis level.6 Image is everything, we are told. And today’s social media market has provided every necessary tool to project our desired image to the world. Every Facebook post is a way to bolster our brand. Every Instagram story, a way to broadcast our achievements. Every YouTube video, a way to distinguish ourselves as unique.
Our highly connected world tempts us to live for the likes, find meaning in the clicks, and confirm our identity by the followers—a vicious cycle, since there are never enough likes, clicks, or followers to satisfy a self-centered heart. And yet still, so many try. Think highly of me, is the wish. Affirm my self-worth, is the hope. This is narcissism at its finest.
But the undistracted Christian resists today’s obsession with personal recognition. He sacrifices earthly affirmation for the glory of Christ. He finds joy in decreasing in the world’s eyes so that Jesus would increase through his testimony (John 3:30). His “identity is grounded in the loving gaze of God….not a publicly projected image that requires regular maintenance, upgrades and optimization.”7 Belonging to Christ is enough for him—far greater than the fleeting praise of others.
And what the undistracted Christian finds is that by sacrificing the oft-sought-after worldly recognition, he is freed to offer himself for others, especially the body of Christ.
Sacrifice Time and Energy for God’s People
Serving the church is the most tangible way you can follow Jesus’ model of service. The church is the cherished possession of Christ. It is His flock (1 Peter 5:2), body (Ephesians 1:22-23), bride (Ephesians 5:25-30), and temple (1 Corinthians 3:16)—the very people for whom Christ offered His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45). Charles Spurgeon said it well: “Nothing in the world is dearer to God’s heart than his church.”8
The undistracted life shows itself by formally committing to a local church and then sacrificing personal preferences, time, and energy to help that church proclaim the Gospel.
Approach your church leadership and express your willingness to help in any way possible. Ask: What tasks have gone undone, and what people have gone uncared for? How can I be most helpful to the pastoral staff or ministry leaders? Be a servant—no, be a slave. Do not consider any duty, errand, or person beneath you. Whether you plant or water (1 Corinthians 3:6), teach or collect communion cups, perform the task with joy “so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11) and God’s people will be served.
Sacrifice Personal Safety for Gospel Witness
The world will always abhor the Gospel. Remember Jesus’ words: “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:19). What this Gospel hatred looks like will certainly vary. In America, it may take the form of workplace demotions, lack of friends on the ballfield, neglect in the neighborhood, and even turmoil in the home. In India or Nigeria, it could very well mean death.9
How will you respond when the world turns its anger against you? Like Christ, the undistracted Christian sacrifices his safety and security—and sometimes even his life—and bears the world’s reproach. He believes “enduring ill-treatment with the people of God…[to be] greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:15-26). He speaks boldly of his glorious Savior and stands unflinchingly on the exclusivity of Christ. Each time bearing what comes his way. Each time modeling his life after the ransom-offering Savior.
The life of service belonged to our Lord and must continue with his people. We must fight the Siren’s narcissistic songs by setting our sights on the majestic Son of Man, who walked this earth as the chief slave. We must believe Jesus’ principle—that greatness only comes through sacrifice. We must let Mark 10:45 have the applicational force Jesus intended, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
 This quote is attributed to Lucille Ball.
 Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential. New York: Warner Faith, 2004.
 Joel Osteen, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day. New York: Free Press, 2007).
 This is part 3 of a blog series entitled, Undistracted. Click here and here for parts 1 and 2.
 Jesus’ words, “give His life a ransom for many” recall Isaiah’s Suffering Servant prophecy in Isaiah 53. See R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark, NIGNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 420.
 See Alan Noble, You Are Not Your Own (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021).
 Ibid., 141-42.
 Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Best Donation,” sermon no. 2234, preached April 5, 1891, in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Containing Sermons Preached and Revised (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim, 1975), 37:633, 635.
 https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/january/christian-persecution-2021-countries-open-doors-watch-list.html (accessed March 10, 2023).