Metaphors are word pictures. They are man’s attempts to describe the indescribable. Don’t build your theology on them.
4 …Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
14 There are those whose teeth are swords, whose fangs are knives, to devour the poor from off the earth…
33 For pressing milk produces curds, twisting the nose produces blood, and stirring up anger produces strife.
These are examples of similes and metaphors, word pictures and illustrations, and they all help us get a more specific idea of what the writer wants us to know. Jesus used these types of descriptions along with parables (short, allegorical stories to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson) because ALL of His concepts were bigger than the people’s–and our–brains could handle.
In Mark 10:35-40, James and John asked to sit at Jesus’ right and left hands when He came into His glory. Verses 41-45 describe the other disciples’ indignation and Jesus’ instruction. Let’s read it:
41 Hearing this, the other ten began to feel indignant with James and John. 42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles domineer over them; and their people in high position exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not this way among you; rather, whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wants to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 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.”
I understand being a servant, but not a slave, so I looked up slave, and the word means, “bond-servant,” which was a person who was a technically a slave.
A bondservant is a slave. In some Bibles the word bondservant is the translation of the Greek word doulos, which means “one who is subservient to, and entirely at the disposal of, his master; a slave.” Other translations use the word slave or servant.
In Roman times, the term bondservant or slave could refer to someone who voluntarily served others. But it usually referred to one who was held in a permanent position of servitude. Under Roman law, a bondservant was considered the owner’s personal property. Slaves essentially had no rights and could even be killed with impunity by their owners.
The Hebrew word for “bondservant,” ‘ebed,’ had a similar connotation. However, the Mosaic Law allowed an indentured servant to become a bondservant voluntarily: “If the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life” (Exodus 21:5-6).
Jesus used the term with the intention for His disciples to voluntarily make themselves slaves to each other. Jesus Himself took this role voluntarily, but He also “gave His life as a ransom for many” (v.45). I looked up the word, “ransom,” and it means, “ransom,” but not like we Westerners think of it. Our first thought is to pay off a kidnapper who takes a loved one and demands payment to get the loved one back. In Jesus’ day, a ransom was what a person used to purchase a slave. Jesus not only became a “slave” for our sakes, he also bought us all out of slavery.
This description of Jesus’ work on the cross is true, but His work was much more than just a payment. Jesus gives us another word picture that denotes more of a hostile takeover than a simple transaction. We’ll look at it tomorrow.
Abba, thank You for being patient with us and for helping us grasp spiritual concepts and realities with our finite minds. Keep stretching and growing us, Lord. We’ll get it someday–when we stand at Your throne in Your presence! I can hardly wait. Amen.