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September 23, 2018     “Turned Around Servant”          Mark 9:30~37 

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Dear brothers & sisters in Christ;

Our gospel lesson today tells how Jesus provided the Twelve Disciples with special training as they traveled around galilee.  At Mark 9, less than a year remains before Good Friday & Easter Sunday = the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry. The Lord’s thoughts are turning toward the suffering that is coming for Him. The 12 are also preparing for what they think the conclusion will be; but they’re focused on the status & competition of being close to someone so great in the world.

From now on, Jesus will devote less effort to public preaching, and more time on teaching the Twelve. For this, they need privacy. Just as in OUR day, at certain times in Jesus’ teaching we see that /some people get mad at him, /some are confused & disappointed in Him, /& some give up on him & walk away shaking their heads; it’s distracting.

It’s very important that the Twelve, who have now confessed Him to be the long promised Messiah, that they learn what that means exactly. Because when the horrors of Jerusalem & golgatha come, their heads will spin. The only thing that they’ll be able to hold on to during those troubles is His words of promise. He said to them, “the Son- of-Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’ But they did not understand what He meant, and were afraid to ask Him about it.”

This is interesting.   They can’t quite figure out how this betrayal & death He’s talked about twice now fits with His mighty miracles, and His wonderful parables about the Kingdom of God, and the good news of Him being their Messiah King. Yet, they didn’t ask. *Didn’t’ they want to know? Or were they afraid that the truth would make them change their happy hopes of earthly things?

At this point, Jesus doesn’t push them for full understanding. He knows that with His continuous teaching, and by His own suffering events, He’ll demonstrate the value of knowing the whole truth, & believing it, and living according to it. By His own trust in His Father’s control, and full obedience to His Father’s will, He will transform their hearts, minds & lives to be of the same kind of trusting & humble service as Him. It’ll come; but it’ll take time, more teaching, and His own visible example.

The 12 were being taught of God’s power & full control of the whole world by Jesus’ miracles; they had the truth of Scripture that convinced them that all events in history are under God’s watchful eye. Nothing can stop God’s will. And soon, they will witness the events of the promised Messiah, with His total committed service for all people unto death. These things will cause the 12 to be turned around in their thinking about /true priorities, /true greatness, /& true service.  They would slowly /learn, then they would /see, then they would /know, and finally they would /live & spread His good news by their own serving.

In the meantime, the disciples ‘buried’ those confused, fearful thoughts; because they were preoccupied with imagining their own kind of dream-kingdom here on earth. Of the 12, *who would be the greatest? Peter = the natural leader? James & John = the sons of thunder? Each disciple seemed to have their own reason to choose themselves to be the greatest.

So, when they came to Capernaum, he asked them, ‘what were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet.

Like when children get caught with their hand in the cookie jar, *what can they say?    For as much as they don’t understand this Messiah & all that He’s about, and after 2 years are not fully realizing what their own discipleship means, they still realize that arguing about who’s the greatest among them was not worthy of their calling. They’re embarrassed about it, and they just clam up.

But this ‘greatness’ is a very important point =vital= and Jesus doesn’t avoid this problem. We know they wouldn’t be competing so hard with each other IF they understood that ‘first place’ meant meek, lowly, humble service; maybe even suffering & death.    They’ve been imagining some great ‘awards banquet’ in their honor. WE imagine that being a good & faithful Christian will get US some recognition & award from the world around us. We know what these Twelve are struggling with as they compete for rank & recognition with God compared to others.     But that idea is backwards according to God’s thinking.

The Son of God gave up His glory in order to be the greatest servant, our servant, and the Savior of the world. He laid down His crown & honor, and took up His cross in humiliation & shame. He did this to turn US around from being part of this world, which ignores God, disobeys, is backwards & passing away. He has turned our eyes off of the great rewards of this earthly life, and towards the True Life in His presence, which will last forever.

So, sitting down, Jesus called the twelve and said, ‘if anyone wants to be first he must be the very last, and the servant of all.’         Greatness, according to a fallen world, comes by climbing over others, / pushing ourselves up by putting others down, / blowing our own horn, / and in building our strength by exploiting other’s weaknesses. James tells us that this is envy and selfish ambition, which leads to disorder and every evil practice. ‘me-first’ is backwards.   It comes quite natural, but its backwards.

Satan first suggested it to Adam & Eve. He said, ‘oh, disregard God’s rule about that tree, and you’ll get further ahead;’ He & His ways are holding you back.’ The trouble is: that’s not true.  And following that lie leads to death. And God has told us so, and it scares us. We don’t always understand it, so we don’t even ask our Lord — for fear we might understand, and then have to deny ourselves something.  To obey God, we would not only have to turn away from our old comfortable self & habits, but also turn away from some of our bad-influence-friends, some of our goals in life for a /certain job, /more money, /bigger house, /more gadgets, /&so on. We want to be great in the world, & have a good life; but sometimes that’s opposite of our faith, & will hurt our faith. That scares us.

The disciples were afraid to ask. Maybe ignorance would preserve them from suffering, or excuse them from change. They had already stuck their necks out more than most; they were still with Jesus, even tho many others had turned away when Jesus’ teaching get difficult to hear or understand. They stood by their confession that He was the Christ, and that He alone had the words of eternal life. Their faith was still clinging to Him, even tho it doubted.

Our Christianity is a lot like theirs. Our faith is also well grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Yet, sometimes we’re afraid of what that faith means for this life.

So, when we have questions, *why do we avoid searching the Scripture for the real answer? …because we’re afraid that Jesus will correct us? For example: does our worship attendance suffer because we don’t want to get too serious about Him & increase expectations on us?

Is our daily practice of His holy ways & words just a half-hearted effort, because we’re afraid that if we deny ourselves that life will be less fun? Maybe the less we know & understand, the less will be required of us. Like, +if we can’t say for sure what’s right or wrong, we can avoid disagreements & won’t make as many enemies.

+If we’re not too committed to Jesus & his ways, people won’t bug us for being so different, and we won’t feel guilty for doing some of the things we do, or for neglecting the things we ought to do.   +If we are not too committed to Christ, then we won’t have to hold position in the church, or have responsibilities here according to the skills God has given to us == let someone else do it.   Is that the kind of life Jesus died to give us? We know what it’s like to be afraid to know too much about this Christian faith; understanding Jesus words shows us just how backwards the world is, and how different we must be from it.

We have every reason to fear the holy expectations of God, because they show us that we’ve fallen short; & that’s sin.   Sin angers God, and the wages of sin is death. Compared to the people we hang around with, we might be the holiest; but God isn’t impressed with comparisons. As disciples of Jesus, we should be deathly afraid of sin; and, should not be afraid to hear & know the whole truth.

It was precisely Jesus’ obedient suffering & death that has paid the price for our fears & failures. He set His face like flint toward Jerusalem to accomplish the real purpose for which the Father had sent Him. Not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for all.

The Twelve would learn that the truly scary thing is only knowing a little about God’s plan & ways. Because knowing the whole truth sets us free from fear. Not understanding this talk of suffering & death would mean not receiving the great good news of God’s mercy & forgiveness.

What Jesus would show the 12 is that, in His own obedience to His Father’s word, and by His own turning away from the world’s comforts & praises, and by embracing the cross, He would deliver all people from eternal death, and the slavery to sin; and from fear, from the devil’s lies, and (like Esau) from trading our et.heavenly inheritance for a mere bowl of soup.

God was demonstrating His love for us in THIS: that while we were yet sinners, condemned & scared to face it, Christ Jesus died for us. And Jesus =the world’s servant= has demonstrated the way-of-God for us by teaching us, and leading us to turn away from what will not last, and toward what lasts forever == which He has won for us.

He has shown us that that plan in Christ is one of God’s total control, complete authority, along with underserved, unconditional love for us. In view of such lasting mercy, *what could make us fear? His perfect love drives out all our fear.

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose in Christ. If God is for us, who can be against us?

He did not spare His only Son. So, nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So now, Jesus takes up a little child, and had him stand among them, and He said to them, ‘whoever welcomes one these little children in My Name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me doesn’t welcome Me but the One who sent Me.’ With faith in Christ, unafraid, we can face the life of faithfulness & service we are called to. We can joyfully serve others with the promise that, in what we do for others, we serve our Lord.

As demonstrated in the baptism this morning, a child is in no position to notice or value such work & sacrifice of others for them; they’re in no position to pay-back parents or any adult for what they do. We may even be long gone before our sacrifices for them (or for others) is noticed by them or others. This is how we are to look at serving others; no pay-back by them. We trust that nothing escapes God’s eyes; and we will certainly not lose His reward.

How freeing it is to act without the worry of getting noticed and awarded in the world. How much more we will be willing to do when we don’t have to have an audience, and when the littlest things can be valuable to The Lord who sees everything done in secret. All of our daily chores now become faithful works & willing service to Him.

How comforting to know the whole truth, that we are serving the One who has first served us; / that by our life, we will show what we believe; / and the things we do show that we understand that our life belongs to Him who has given His life for us.

Like with the Twelve, Jesus has convinced US that He is taking care of us better than we can care for ourselves. That mean that now we are free to care for others, without expecting anything in return. All that is valuable in this life has already been given to us in Christ.  We are His servants, turned around, away from seeking the world, and ready to welcome little children, and all others, in His Name.

Amen