Fifth Sunday in Lent
Passage: Mark 10:35–10:45
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Mark 10:35-45
Date: March 18th, 2018; Lent 5; Series B
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We heard in our Gospel reading that James and John were looking for a place of greatness in the glory of God’s kingdom.
They made the bold request to Jesus, “Grant us to sit, one at your right, the other at your left when you come into your glory.”
It’s a strange request that comes at a strange time.
Jesus had just told his disciples for the third time that he was going to Jerusalem to be handed over to sinful men, to be crucified, and on the third day rise again.
And even after being told three times, they still they don’t seem to get it.
They act as if they hadn’t even heard what Jesus had said to them.
Jesus tells them that he is going to Jerusalem to suffer and die - and James and John are worried about their pecking order among the disciples!
James and John were blinded by their ambition and desire for power and glory - so they didn’t hear what Jesus was saying to them.
Instead of listening to Jesus - they were busy throwing elbows, and pushing, and trying to climb over the other ten disciples to get to the top.
James’ and John’s behaviour reflects how we see many behaving in this world.
Conniving. Exploitation. Pushing people down to rise up. Talking behind people’s backs make them look bad. Viewing people as obstacles in the way of getting what you want. Looking out for number one. Greed. Selfishness. Jealousy.
Jesus responded to the disciples - and to all of us today, “It shall not be so among you.”
But the truth is that it is among us.
That’s the problem.
It is among you and me.
I tend to be far more concerned about what’s good for me than I am over what’s good for you.
Often, my first thought isn’t what affect something might have on you, but how it is going to impact me.
The default position for my sinful nature is “me, me, me!”
We put ourselves first when we gossip.
We hear that juicy bit of news that makes someone else look bad and we begin talking behind their back.
We drag them down with the gossip because we think that it lifts us up.
We put ourselves first when we covet.
When our neighbour pulls into their driveway with a shiny new car we get that rush of jealousy.
We cast a longing look at it and suddenly we aren’t content with what we have - our car all of the sudden seems like a rust bucket.
We tend to look at people for what we can get out of them - rather than as fellow human beings made in the image of God.
The world runs according to the survival of the fittest.
Keep pushing for power, and prestige, and glory. Keep fighting to get what you want.
We have all loved ourselves more than our neighbour at some point. We might even do it regularly in our lives.
It happens on the playgrounds and in the classrooms.
It happens in our careers as we strive for the top.
It happens as mothers ruthlessly judge one another so they can feel better about how they are raising their kids.
It happens as fathers compare the accomplishments of their kids, and rank them against each other, so they can feel superior.
It happens when we delight in the sins and problems of others so that we can feel holy and put together in comparison.
Jesus says to you and me this morning, “It shall not be so among you.”
“It shall not be so among you.”
You see, we have it all backwards.
We think the good life is getting as much as you can while you can.
Power, prestige, wealth - that’s what it’s all about!
But that’s not it at all.
Jesus sets things straight when he says, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”
The good life does not consist of the power you have, or your possessions, or how great you are according to the measures of the world.
“It all not be so among you.”
No, the good life consists of a life of love and service to your fellow human beings.
A life of sacrifice on behalf of, and for the good of, others.
Rather than clawing, and pushing, and striving after power and wealth - Jesus says the greatest is the one who sets aside selfish desires in order to serve others with sacrificial love.
Just imagine what this world would look like if we all lived this way!
Just imagine how much better things in this world would be if we loved, supported, and built each other up - rather than climbing over each other to get more!
The truth is - we know this. This is what our parents taught us. This is what we teach our children. We know this is true.
But it’s hard.
We like power and prestige. We like new shiny things.
We are bombarded with messages and advertisements that tell us that this is the key to a good life. If you want to be happy - do this! Buy this! Travel here!
But we are deceived if we think we will find true contentment with power and stuff. It is a lie.
Jesus speaks the truth when he tells us that the life of self-sacrificial service is the life with meaning.
The life that isn’t focused inward, but looks outside to the needs of others is the life of fulfillment.
This is the seeming “upside-down-ness” of God’s kingdom: the greatest of all is the servant of all. The last shall be first and the first shall be last.
And Jesus did far more than just speak these words of truth - he lived them, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus is God in the flesh! He deserves nothing but honour and glory and prestige. He is all powerful and can do and get whatever he wants. He deserves nothing but our constant devotion and service.
Yet he came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
His selfless love and desire to save us drove him to suffer and die on the cross - and it is on the cross that we see the greatest glory.
On the cross we see the ultimate, self-sacrificing, and servant-hearted, love possible.
Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Some people think that we come to church to do something for God - to serve him.
But God doesn’t need anything from us. He’s God.
We gather here because we are in need. Desperate need.
Desperate need of forgiveness, salvation, and life.
And that is why Jesus provided his church - so that he can serve us and we can receive from him what we desperately need.
We call this Divine Service because the Divine (God) serves us!
Jesus serves us through his means of grace - his Word and Sacraments.
We call these the means of grace because it is through these means - his Word read, preached, meditated upon; his forgiveness spoken in the Absolution; new life given in Holy Baptism; faith nourish and life given in Holy Communion - it is through these means that Jesus serves you.
And having been served by Jesus, having been strengthened in our faith and life in his name - we begin to see the world the way God intends us to see it.
We see the world not as a place to push and shove and claw to get what we want.
No, we see the world as a place to love and care for others - a place to love and serve others - even as we have been loved and served by Jesus.
We recognize that greatness is not found in power, and prestige, and stuff.
Greatness is found in self-sacrificial love and service.
Lord, help us walk Your servant way
Wherever love may lead
And, bending low, forgetting self,
Each serve the other’s need. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.