Wishing to be great: ransom

serve-one-anotherServant and Slave. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; 44 whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.

In these short verses, which in many ways parallels 9:35 (“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”), there is one difference that Stoffregen notes. In v.44 he/she will be a servant [diakonos] of you (plural, indicating the Twelve), while v.45 is he/she will be a slave [doulos] of all. This is not a distinction that Matthew makes in his parallel (Mt 20:26-27).

Stoffregen wonders if Mark in making the point that our service and discipleship is not limited to the group, but is pointedly service to the whole world, to all. Is the change from diakonos to doulos Mark’s way of placing a greater emphasis on serving all people and not just those within the believing community. Juel [Mark, 149] has this comment about the passage: “While Jesus’ first comments about discipleship suggest that followers must be prepared to take up their crosses and follow even all the way to death, that does not seem to be the issue here. The question is not willingness to die but rather willingness to lead without flaunting authority. The whole passage has to do with status and leadership — hardly of interest or concern to a community of desperate, persecuted believers. Such comments would be of interest to a community that has tasted power and likes it, a community that is already experiencing the pressures of institutionalization.”

Ransom. 45 For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The word for ransom (lytron) occurs only here and the Mt parallel. It refers to the price paid to free a slave. Related words are frequently translated “redemption” or “redeemer”. The reply to James and John highlights the archetypal character of the death of Jesus. The final saying points once again to the Son of Man as the one who has come to serve—not the glory the disciples had in mind. It also states the reason for Jesus’ death: “a ransom for many” (v. 45). This formulation distinguishes Jesus’ death from those of martyr disciples, like James and John. The disciple shares Jesus’ suffering but does not offer his or her own life as a sacrifice for the sins of others.

“This final section parallels the opening exhortation to bear one’s cross in imitation of the Son of Man, who came to serve (8:34–38). The self-denial associated with the cross does not always mean martyrdom, even in Mark. Another form of self-denial has been emphasized throughout these chapters: denying the human demand for honor, power, and status. The repeated struggles for honor among the disciples show what a difficult task that reversal of values is. The image of ransom as liberation from slavery opens up an additional dimension of Jesus’ self-sacrifice. It is the true meaning of the victory over evil, which has been enacted in Jesus’ healings and exorcisms.” [Perkins, 654]


Mark 10:45 serve: Although Jesus says in v. 45 that he did not come to be served but to serve, every other time this word [diakoneo] is used in Mark it is Jesus who is being served! After the temptation he is served by angels (1:13). After healing Peter’s mother-in-law, she serves them (1:31). The women at the crucifixion are described as those who “used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee (15:41).


  • K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007).
  • Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989) 245-48
  • John R. Donahue and Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Mark, Sacra Pagina v.2 (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazer / Liturgical Press, 2001) 310-16
  • Wilfred Harrington, Mark, The New Testament Message, v.4 (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazer Press, 1979)
  • William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974) 377-84
  • Philip Van Linden, C.M., “Mark” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, ed. Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989) 924-25
  • Pheme Perkins, The Gospel of Mark, vol. 8 of The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville, TN: Abington Press, 1994) 653-55
  • Ben Worthington, The Gospel of Mark: A Social-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001) 285-90
  • David Turner and Darrell L. Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005).
  • Brian Stoffregen, CrossMarks Christian Resources, available at www.crossmarks.com/brian/


  • Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
  • Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990)
  • The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, Gary A. Herion, David F. Graf, John David Pleins and Astrid B. Beck (New York: Doubleday, 1996).

Scripture – The New American Bible available on-line at http://www.usccb.org/bible


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