************ Sermon on Mark 9:35 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 7, 2002
Mark 9:33-37; 10:35-45
"Who is the Greatest?"
Who are the great people of this world? Who would be on this list and why?
• George W. Bush - President of the United States
• Jean Chretien - Prime Minister of Canada
• Bill Gates - founder of Microsoft
• Warren Buffet - billionaire stock market investor
• Osama Bin Laden - terrorist behind the 9/11 attacks
• Alan Greenspan - chairman of the Federal Reserve
• John Nash - mathematician and Nobel Prize winner featured in the movie "A Beautiful Mind"
I am sure you all realize the world puts the highest value on those with power, money, intellectual brilliance, athletic ability, and good looks.
Now, who are the great people in the Kingdom of Heaven? Who would be on this list and why?
• Dorcas - the book of Acts describes her as a lady who was always doing good and helping the poor (Acts 9:36)
• William Tyndale - he was burned at the stake because he translated the Bible in the language of the common people
• William Booth - out of concern for the poor and hungry he started the Salvation Army
• Billy Graham - he dedicated his life to preaching the Gospel because he could not stand the sound of thousands of souls marching to hell without hearing of Christ
• Bernice - a woman in a previous church I served - she always prepares meals for the sick, and helps people with sewing and cleaning
• Glen - a man in a previous church I served - if something was broke he came over to fix it
• Joanne - a woman in a previous church I served - she always visited the sick, the aged, the mourning, the hurting
The church, like Christ, puts the highest value on those who serve.
In our text for this evening Jesus teaches us about greatness. "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mk 9:35). This is what Jesus says to the Trinity congregation. This is what Jesus says to our SERVE team.
I The Measure of Greatness
A I want you to take note of why Jesus taught His disciples about the life of service. When Jesus and His disciples were on the road to Capernaum Jesus overheard the disciples talking and arguing about something. So once they arrived at their destination He asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?"
Now, Jesus didn't have to ask this question. He already knew the answer. He knew the disciples were arguing "about who was the greatest."
This argument happened right after Jesus announced His suffering and death (Mk 9:31; cf Mk 8:31). Jesus announced He was no longer going to be with the disciples. The disciples responded by arguing about who would be the boss, the chief, the person in charge once Jesus was gone. Their argument about greatness was an argument about position, honor, and glory. It is clear, isn't it, that they didn't even begin to understand Jesus' mission to save a lost-in-sin mankind?
Did you notice the disciples' reaction when Jesus asked, "What were you arguing about on the road?" Scripture tells us "they kept quiet." They were ashamed and embarrassed that Jesus had caught them fighting for position and politicking for office while He was still with them, before His body was even cold.
B A little bit later when Jesus again predicted His suffering and death (Mk 10:32-34) it was James and John who asked for greatness. But this time they made their request sound spiritual. They asked for greatness – for position, honor, and glory – when Jesus was glorified. They asked, 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory" (Mk 10:37). Instead of arguing about who would take over for Jesus, they were asking for appointments as His Prime Minister or chief of staff in the coming Kingdom. Again, we see a basic misunderstanding of Jesus' mission to save a lost-in-sin mankind.
Scripture tells us "When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John" (Mk 10:41). Notice, they were not indignant about the request; rather, they were indignant that James and John beat them to the punch, so to speak; they were indignant that James and John thought of something before they did.
C It is within this setting of the disciples fighting and arguing about greatness – about position, honor, and glory – that Jesus says our text for this evening. "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mk 9:35).
Jesus is talking, of course, about greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven. He is NOT talking about worldly greatness, about the acclaim and praise of men, about the adoration of the crowds. He is giving us the recipe, the measure, for greatness in God's eyes.
At stake here is the measure of greatness. How do we measure greatness? What makes someone great? Is it how long we live, how famous we become, or how rich we are at retirement? The disciples defined greatness in terms of position, honor, and glory. Our world defines greatness in terms of power, money, intellectual brilliance, athletic ability, and good looks. But Jesus defines greatness in terms of service.
Title: The Measure of Greatness
George W. Truitt, the great Baptist preacher, said, "It is not the talents one has that makes him great, however many and brilliant they may be; it is not vast amount of study ...; it is not in shining social qualities; it is not the large accumulation of wealth ... In none of these -- measured by God's standards -- does greatness reside. True greatness consists in the use of all the talents one has in unselfish ministry to others."
SERVants, congregation, you are great, you are considered great in the Kingdom, if you walk the path of service. That's what Jesus says to us this evening.
II Jesus as a Servant
A "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mk 9:35).
When we look at our Bible readings for this evening we see that Jesus does not expect more of us than He expected of Himself.
I am sure you realize that according to all the standards of the world Jesus deserves position, honor, and glory. Instead of Him serving others, others should be serving Him. Who, after all, is Jesus? As Jesus Himself admits, He is "Lord and Teacher" (Jn 13:14). Furthermore, according to Paul,
(Col 1:15-19) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (16) For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (17) He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (18) And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (19) For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him ...Surely Jesus, of all people, deserves position and acclaim, power and praise. Yet, what does Jesus say?
(Mk 10:45) "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve ..."
B Jesus came to serve. It is unfortunate that in our English language the word "service" is associated with business. Go to a vacation area like Lake Shasta and you will notice that everything revolves around service to the tourist – for an enormous price, of course. In this country, a service station used to be a place where service paid off in sales – now most service stations are self-serve. Many businesses realize that "good service is good business." And, when you go to a doctor, lawyer, or dentist you will find that the price for "professional services rendered" is usually quite high.
Our habit of connecting service and business makes it hard to understand Biblical language. In the Bible the word "service" means the kind of work a slave did for his master. It required total obedience to the master's will and he didn't get paid for it. This is what Jesus has in mind for Himself – and for you and me.
Jesus came to serve. This meant total obedience to the will and mission of the Father. Think of Him in the Garden of Gethsemane as He struggled and sweated about His upcoming suffering and death. What was His response? He submitted totally and completely to the Father: "... not what I will, but what you will" (Mk 14:36). And, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work" (Jn 4:34).
Jesus came to serve. Scripture tells us His service involved sacrifice and death. His service was an act of love. I already mentioned Jesus' prediction of His suffering and death. He said to His disciples,
(Mk 9:31) "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."Jesus came to serve. He came to give the supreme service. He came "to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). He came to save us from our sins by dying upon the cross in our place. He came to suffer the anguish and pain and torment of hell that we should suffer. He came to experience the judgment and wrath of God against our sins.
Paul describes Jesus' act of service in his letter to the church at Philippi.
(Phil 2:6-8) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (7) but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!What an act – a tremendous act – of service!
C Now, do you know what God did to Jesus or for Jesus because Jesus did this supreme act of service? Let me finish reading what Paul writes to the church at Philippi:
(Phil 2:9-11) Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Do you see what Paul is saying? Jesus achieved greatness in the Kingdom of God by or because of His service. Because of His service Jesus was taken into the glory and presence of God in heaven. Because of His service Jesus was given a crown and a throne. Because of His service Jesus was given the name above every other name. Because of His service Jesus was pronounced to be King of the universe and before Him every knee now should bow.
Jesus, more than any other, shows us that greatness in the Kingdom comes by way of service.
III Greatness in the Kingdom
A "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mk 9:35).
SERVants, congregation, what exactly is Jesus saying to us this evening about greatness in the Kingdom? What is He telling us to do?
First, like Jesus, the life of service means we recognize we are SERVants of the Lord. This requires total obedience to the will and mission of the Father. Like Jesus, we are to submit to the Master's will. Like Jesus, we are called to share in God's mission to save the lost.
B "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mk 9:35).
Second, like Jesus, the life of service means we are to live a life of love. Contrary to what songs on the radio say, love is not a feeling. Rather, love is a deliberate decision to do loving acts for the good of the other person. That's what Jesus did. Out of love He went to the cross for our sins. Out of love He endured the wrath and contempt of God. Those who are SERVants, those who are great in the Kingdom, live for the sake of others. Those who are SERVants, those who are great in the Kingdom, make deliberate decisions to do loving acts for the good of other people.
C "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mk 9:35).
Third, like Jesus, the life of service means we live a life of self-denial. Those who are SERVants, who are great in the Kingdom, do not live for themselves. They don't put their own self-interest before that of others. Rather, like Jesus, they are willing to make sacrifices.
D "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mk 9:35).
Fourth, like Jesus, the life of service means a life of meekness. In the last couple of years two new game shows, "Survivor" and "The Weakest Link" have become a hit on TV. The message that comes through from both shows is that you get to the top if you are willing to climb over others, no matter who gets hurt. On both shows it is the "survival of the fittest" and "nice guys finish last."
However, in the Kingdom of God greatness is not a matter of the "survival of the fittest." In God's Kingdom it is not the person who goes through life pushing his or her weight around who makes it to the top. It is the person who is willing to take the back seat, who is willing to step aside to let other pass, who is willing to be at the back of the line, who is considered great in the Kingdom of Heaven. In God's Kingdom the person who willingly becomes the "weakest link" is the one who ultimately is counted as the winner.
E "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mk 9:35).
Fifth, like Jesus, the life of service means you follow the values of the Kingdom. You need to realize that within the Kingdom the values of this world are set upside-down. The world prizes money, wealth, goods. "But you are not to be like that," says Jesus. The world values revenge, getting even. "But you are not to be like that," says Jesus. The world promotes an immoral and unchaste lifestyle. "But you are not be like that," says Jesus. The world esteems position and acclaim. ""But you are not to be like that," says Jesus. The world says you elbow your way to the front of the line and climb over others to the top of the heap. "But you are not to be like that," says Jesus. Instead, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mk 9:35).
I remember the time a girl had a flat tire on her old Chrysler when I was a student at Calvin College. She had no idea of what to do. I grabbed the tire wrench and tried to loosen the lugs. After 15 sweaty minutes on a cold winter's night I had not succeeded in loosening a single lug. In fact, they all seemed tighter than before. When I mentioned this the young lady said, "I think dad told me Chrysler has a reverse screw." Sure enough, on that Chrysler I had to turn the lugs the wrong way.There is a sense in which the Kingdom of God is like Chrysler's reverse screw: everything is backwards, at least from the world's point-of-view.
Jesus tells us this evening that the door to greatness opens only when we follow the path of service. "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." This is backwards or upside down from the world's point-of-view.
All of you know what IQ stands for – Intelligence Quotient. This evening I want to test your SQ – Servant Quotient. I want you to ask yourself:
-Do I give total obedience to the will and mission of the Father?
-Do I love my neighbor?
-Do I practice self-denial and sacrifice?
-Am I content with being the weakest link?
-Do I live according to the upside-down values of the Kingdom?
If you can answer "yes" then you are a servant, someone who is great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
"If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mk 9:35).
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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