As we follow the Easter story in the gospel of Mark we see Jesus hinting to his disciples bit by bit about his impending death. As Jesus was making his way into Jerusalem for the last time, his power-grabbing disciples, James and John, asked him a question. They asked if they could sit at Jesus’ left and right hand in his glory in the coming kingdom (they mistakenly believed Jesus’ kingdom would come immediately with a political power-play to overthrow the Roman empire). So Jesus asked them if they could drink the same cup he would drink and be baptised with the same baptism? This was a clear reference to his impending death. Baptism and a cup in the Old Testament can be symbols for troubles and sufferings. The cup here in Mark referred to the wrath and justice of God against sin. Baptism means to be flooded with something. It can have two sides to it – negative and positive. It means to go through something (an ordeal) and to come out the other side of it. And this was a hint that the death of Jesus would result in resurrection and life.
Jesus says to the two disciples, “You don’t know what you are asking” (his kingdom was not what they were imagining). Then he explains to them why he has to die. He said to them that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 – many think this verse to be the key verse of the whole gospel of Mark). The word “ransom” which Jesus used meant “to purchase a person out of slavery” and more specifically “the price paid to bring a prisoner of war out of his captivity”. So Jesus is telling us that his death would be the payment to liberate us from our slavery to sin (the forces that seek to destroy us and upend God’s peace in our lives). Interestingly, the word assumes that we are in captivity and bondage – indicating that we, in our default position, have rebelled against God and none of us reflects his perfect glory. That is how Jesus sees us. Secondly, it assumes that there is a price or penalty to be paid in order to release the slaves. This price was Jesus’ life. In this case the ransomer does that which the slave or prisoner is incapable of doing themselves. And finally, a new relationship is formed with the ransomer – the former captive is now a captive of love and gratefulness to his liberator. A new relationship of love and willing service begins. And this is why Good Friday, a day in remembrance of the death of Jesus, is called “good”!