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The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 23, 2018 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Pentecost

Passage: Mark 9:30–9:37

†††In the Name of Jesus†††

Pastor Murray Keith

Text: Mark 9:30-37

Date: September 23rd, 2018; Pentecost 18; Series B

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

  • Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you have absolutely no idea what they are talking about?  You just can’t understand what they are saying.

  • But to save yourself from looking foolish - you just go along with it and pretend like you are grasping everything.

  • I admit that this is something that happens to me regularly when I have a vehicle at the shop.

  • When the mechanic starts telling me about what is wrong - well with the valves, and injections, and crankshaft position sensors - I feel like a deer in headlights.

  • But I don’t want him to know that.

  • I don’t want him to know that my knowledge of cars doesn’t go much beyond filling the windshield washer fluid, and keeping air in the tires.  

  • So, rather than asking the mechanic to explain things further - I give him that “I understand” look and agree with everything he says.

  • We heard in our Gospel lesson for this morning that this happened to the disciples.  

  • Jesus was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him.  And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”  (Mark 9:31).

  • Hearing this, the disciples did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

  • So they just went along with it.  

  • And it’s too bad.

  • Maybe had they asked for some clarification, they would have been better prepared for when Jesus actually was delivered into the hands of men and was killed.

  • Maybe rather than being filled with fear, confusion, and doubt - they would have been filled with peace and certainty as things played out the way that Jesus said they would. 

  • The fear of looking foolish in front of the mechanic prevents me from asking questions and learning more about cars.  

  • The fear of looking foolish in front of our Lord prevented the disciples from asking questions and learning more about what Jesus had to say about his mission to save the world on the cross.

  • And this fear is really the result of pride.  It’s about being too proud to expose our lack of understanding and being afraid of looking foolish.

  • Pride shows up in so many different areas of our life - and it’s deadly.

  • Pride likely was a big part of the reason that the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was saying.

  • They couldn’t comprehend the message that Jesus was going to suffer and die by hanging on a cross like a criminal.

  • What weakness!

  • This was the exact opposite of the power and victory that the disciples were expecting that Jesus was going to bring them.

  • Jesus was talking about the cross, but the disciples were preoccupied with glory. 

  • Jesus was telling them about his ultimate sacrifice, giving up his life for the world - and his disciples are angling for position and arguing over who was the greatest.

  • Now, while it’s easy to judge the disciples for doing this - we too can fall into this type of thinking.

  • Instead of a Jesus who was humiliated on a cross and put to death, instead of a Jesus who has called for us to take up crosses in our lives - we want a Jesus who will take away all of our problems right now.

  • We want a Jesus who will make us great, and successful - a Jesus who will make us winners.

  • And it’s not surprising that we think this way.  

  • We’re taught to strive for greatness - often meaning being better than everyone else.  

  • Winning that gold medal, getting higher marks than our classmates, earning more money, being more powerful.

  • We admire winners - so we want a God who will help us win.  

  • It’s a competitive world out there - people scrambling to get ahead, climbing over others to achieve greatness.

  • This is how the disciples were behaving - they were scrambling to establish their pecking order.

  • Who has the most power?  Who’s in charge among them?  Who’s the greatest?

  • Jesus had a different plan.  

  • Not power but weakness. 

  • Not glory but cross.

  • Not the greatness of winning, but greatness through losing.  

  • Greatness through losing one’s life in order to gain it.  

  • Greatness through laying down his life to ransom us from sin and death.

  • Jesus teaches us, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

  • To make his point, Jesus took a child and put him in their midst and said, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:37).

  • This might sound strange and might be a bit lost on us, but in Jesus’ day children were viewed as being almost insignificant.  

  • Along the lines of the old saying, “Children are to be seen, not heard."

  • Yet, that is exactly where Jesus places himself - in the position of a little child.

  • To receive this child, is to receive God’s child, the child of the Virgin Mary, the suffering  servant who gives his life for the salvation of the world.

  • To receive God’s child is to receive forgiveness, reconciliation, and eternal life from God.

  • Do you want to be great in God’s eyes?

  • Then you must become last and servant to all.

  • Do you want to be a winner in the kingdom of God?

  • Then lose yourself and gain all that Christ has won for you through his life, death, and resurrection.

  • Lose yourself by recognizing that it’s not about you - it’s about Christ crucified for you.

  • Paul recognized this about himself when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).  

  • God has loved you and has given himself for you.

  • Your old sinful nature has been crucified with Christ and you are reconciled with God.

  • You have been set free from sin and death.

  • And now, in that freedom we have the privilege of serving God by loving and serving each other and the world around us.

  • Love.  Peace.  Mercy.  Charity.  Sacrifice.  Service.  

  • That’s true greatness.

  • And never was true greatness more on display than when God took on our flesh to innocently suffer and die on the cross for our salvation.

  • Jesus on the cross.  That’s greatness and glory.

  • And through the cross of Jesus, faith looks out into the world and sees Jesus precisely where the world would not look: in the least, the lost, the little, the child.  Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

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