Jesus does not leave any doubt about what he came to do: He came to die.
Mark 9: 30-31
Jesus predicted his death three times in just three chapters — it was absolutely central to both his identity and his purpose on earth.
Mark 10: 45 – Jesus’s choice of the word come is a strong giveaway that he existed before he was born: He came into the world. By saying “did not come to be served,” he assumes that he had every right to expect to be honoured and served when he came, though he did not exercise that privilege. The final phrase, “to give his life as a ransom for many,” sums up the reason why he has to die. Jesus came to be a substitutionary sacrifice.
If God is really a loving God, why doesn’t he just forgive everybody? Why did Jesus have to go through suffering into death? Why did he have to be a ransom? Jesus didn’t have to die despite God’s love; he had to die because of God’s love. And it had to be this way because all life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice.
When you have children, they are in a state of dependency. They have so many needs; they can’t stand on their own. They will not just grow out of their dependency automatically. The only way that your children will grow beyond their dependency into self-sufficient adults is for you to essentially abandon your own independence for twenty years or so. When they are young, for example, you have got to read to them — otherwise, they won’t develop intellectually. You can make the sacrifice, or they are going to make the sacrifice or they are going to suffer tragically, in a wasteful and destructive way. All real, life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice.
God is more loving than you and I, and a God who comes into the world to deal with the ultimate evil, the ultimate sin, would have to make a substitutionary sacrifice. The only way that Jesus could redeem us was to give his life as a ransom. God couldn’t just say, “I forgive everybody.”
Positive Psychology, a branch of psychology that seeks to take a scientific, empirical approach to what makes people happy. Researchers in this field have found that if you focus on doing and getting things that give you pleasure, it does not lead to happiness. You become addicted to pleasure, and your need for the pleasure fix keeps growing: You have to do more and more. You are never satisfied, never really happy.
The researcher pointed out that when you are leading an unselfish life of service to other people, it gives you a sense of meaning, of being useful and valuable, of having a life of significance. In other words, he is saying, live a selfless life because it will make you happy.
But you see, if I lead an unselfish life primarily to make myself happy, then I am not leading an unselfish life. I am not doing these acts of kindness for others; I am ultimately doing them for myself.
How can we truly become unselfish? The answers, we need to look somewhere else besides ourselves. We need to look at Jesus. If he is indeed a substitutionary sacrifice, if he has paid for our sins, if he has proved to our hearts that we are worth everything to him, then we have everything we need in him. It is all a gift to us by grace. We don’t do good things in order to connect to God or to feel better about ourselves. Now you do not need to help people, but you want to help them, to resemble the One who did so much for you, to bring him delight. Only the gospel gives you motivation for unselfish living.
Note from King’s Cross: Understanding the Life and Death of Jesus