SERMON PENTECOST 18 SEPT. 23, 2018
Text: Mark 9:30-37 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know this, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He told them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him. But three days after he is killed, he will rise.”
32 But they did not understand the statement and were afraid to ask him about it. 33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they remained silent, because on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 Jesus sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he will be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and placed him in their midst. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes not just me but also him who sent me.”
Our text presents a vivid contrast. Our life is full of contrasts, that is, we see certain opposites in people, things, words, and actions. We can learn from these contrasts. Consider this story. “A Christian man comes up with an idea that will really help the company he works for. He fleshes out the idea with his team at work. The boss loves the idea and quickly integrates it into the business. It brings increased profit. ---But a different employee claims credit for the original idea. The real innovator says nothing. Several days later the boss spoke to him. This whole new process was your idea, wasn’t it? One of your fellow workers, who really respects you, told me. Why didn’t say something? I wanted to tell you, but I didn’t want you didn’t to see two of us arguing. The idea, the process, that is what was important. I wanted you to see that clearly. The process as implemented will help us all. ---The boss didn’t tell the man how impressed he was with him. But at the end of the month the man received a $1000 bonus. He later would be promoted. The contrast in our story is, one man was interested in helping the company. The other, who tried to steal credit, was interested in helping himself.
Look now at the contrast in our text. The disciples were arguing about who among them was the greatest. This stands in contrast to Jesus who would soon give his life for others. Our story is from the last year of Jesus’ public ministry. It shows that the disciples still had a lot to learn. They had to learn again that in God’s kingdom it’s about serving, not being served. We need to have that lesson repeated to us also. It is all too easy to think first and foremost about ourselves. So today, let us all again Learn from Jesus, the Master, about Serving.
Our text says, “They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent, because on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.” Jesus with one question quickly gets to the bottom of a problem. (By the way, he knew what they were talking about on the road.) He frankly embarrassed the disciples. He wanted to do that. For they had sinned forgetting what it means to be a disciple of the Lord. Being a disciple of Jesus means serving, not being great.
Because of our sinful flesh, we suffer the exact same problem. We forget that being a follower of Jesus means to serve. We have a contrast in our lives just like the disciples. We know we should do good to others. We should serve and help others. But our flesh really doesn’t want to serve. It makes excuses, I AM tired. I don’t have time. Oh, I’ll help another time.
The disciples also had not understood what Jesus said earlier. He said, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him. But three days after he is killed, he will rise.” This is the second time he told them this. Yet they didn’t understand either of the two facts Jesus was teaching them here. They didn’t understand he would die to take away their sins. They didn’t understand a lot about that truth. But they also didn’t understand that here was the picture of the greatest service anyone could have ever do.
Let us look at both these facts. Earlier, I called Jesus “Master”. He is Master in two ways. He is Master of all. A short time before, Peter had said that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. So, he rules over all his creation with the Father and H.S. He has all power, knowledge and wisdom. But he is saying that I, Master of all, am going to die. Furthermore, he tells them, for the first time, that one of them was going to betray him. He is willing to die for everyone, even his very sinful disciples. He is willing to die for them that they might live through him. This makes Jesus the Master in the second way, doesn’t it? He is the greatest Servant of all time. For there is no greater service to another than to give your life for him or her. Now, others have died for fellow humans, especially in times of war. But Jesus’ death is different. He gives his life for the underserving, for the criminal, for you and me. St. Paul says, “God made him to be sin for us.” (2 Cors.) Isaiah calls Jesus, the suffering Servant. “He was wounded for OUR transgressions, He was crushed for OUR iniquities, upon Him was the chastisement that brought US peace, and with His stripes WE are healed.” (Is 53). (Did you notice the contrasts?) Spiritually sick, dying because we in our humanity prefer the works of the flesh. Our flesh loves all types of immorality over purity and holiness. But in Christ we are forgiven; in him we find hope. We have peace with God because of his love! And that love for us is the full love of God delivered to us. He washed the disciples’ feet the night he is betrayed! He washes us each and every day through Baptism. What a Servant our great Master is!
So, now he says, you want to talk about greatness, fine! But to be great you don’t try to be first in line! You don’t push, shove or elbow yourself to the front! You don’t look inward with pride about who you are! The disciples the day of our text were still miserable sinners and so today we are still sinners. --- But washed clean in Jesus, you can now serve. But only in Jesus!
Follow the example of Jesus. He is the Master Servant. Pastor two weeks ago told us of Jesus’ personal touch of love. He always was helping others. His own needs came second. So, he healed a deaf mute, or the paralytic or the leper. But mostly notice that Jesus helped those with whom he came into contact. With whom do you come into contact? Those at home, at work, at recreation time, in the neighborhood. Jesus is saying here, serve them.
But also notice that Jesus used the example of a child. “He took a little child and placed him in their midst.” In doing this Jesus shows us another great contrast. Jesus places this child in the midst of men. Several were fishermen. What do men usually do with children that aren’t their own? They avoid them. Except perhaps for a few, short, kind words. But then Jesus picks up the child and says, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes not just me but also him who sent me.” So, the disciples, in order to serve, had to learn to do the very opposite what they (their flesh) wanted to do. Consider Jesus in the garden praying. He prayed so seriously that he sweated blood. Why? It wasn’t natural for him to be carrying our sin, nor the sins of the whole world. But when there was no other way to save us, he went to cross. Thus, the disciples had to learn from the Master to put others first, children, strangers, and especially those in their family.
You and I too must keep on learning from the Master how to serve. Why? Because we are a living huge contrast. Our flesh doesn’t want to serve. But the new man in us wants to follow our Master. So then, we must be constantly filled with his love. We need to always keep in mind his love for us and how he served us. Then we will be motivated to serve. The original disciples became the Apostles, true servants of God. Today, you and I are the servants of God. Through Jesus, your loving Master, may you keep on renewing your service to God. You and I can do this, if we keep listening to our Savior. We just need to keep on following the example of our beloved Master. Amen