Tyler David speaks on Mark 9:30-37
Series: Normal Christianity
It was a burning desire in the hearts of Jesus’ disciples to be great and significant. We are no different. We long to be valued and highly esteemed by others. This desire of humanity fuels things like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and blogs. We all want to be known and recognized. The desire is so strong, that even if we don’t feel like we can be great, we at least want to associate with greatness. We want to know people who are great. We buy certain products, wear certain brands, and join certain institutions so that we can associate with things and people we deem to be great.
This desire is in all of us.
This desire is a God-given one.
You were made for greatness. To be significant. It’s something God put in the fabric of every human being.
Just like us, the disciples had this desire. But just like us, their sin twisted and distorted it. They settled for the greatness the world had to offer. Their sin blinded them to the greatness Jesus had in mind for His people. An unfathomable greatness for all who follow Him. An incomprehensible greatness for everyone who repents of his or her sin and follows Him.
But, the road to that greatness is much different than we would think.
Greatness through Service
30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he 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.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. 33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
Mark 9:30-37 (ESV)
Greatness is not defined by what you accomplish, but by whom you have served.
Significance is not found through the title on your business card, or the number in your bank account, or the reputation of your children, or how many people you know. It is found through service, especially to those who can’t repay you or treat you like a servant.
Normal Christianity is not forsaking greatness; it’s pursuing the true and everlasting greatness that comes from God.
They were on the move through Galilee. Jesus was purposefully being secretive. He didn’t want anyone to know they were in the region, because He wanted time alone with His disciples. He began His teaching by reminding them He was going to die. He would rise and reign again, but He had to suffer first.
This was not the first time He had told them this. At the end of chapter eight, Jesus told them the same thing. He kept telling them. He knew they didn’t really believe Him and didn’t want it to be true. It was so counter to what they thought the Messiah would do. They just couldn’t believe it. Their response showed this.
32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. Mark 9:32 (ESV)
They couldn’t believe the Messiah was going to die. They had read the Old Testament prophecies that said He would be a king who would rule the world. In their mind, He was suppose to free them from political oppression, destroy the Romans and set up a physical kingdom where they would reign with Him. Him saying He had to die flipped this whole idea upside down.
It’s not new to see the disciples being confused, not understanding what Jesus was doing. But they would always ask for clarification. So many of the accounts in the Gospel of Mark are the disciples pulling Jesus aside and asking Him to clarify what He said or did. However, in this instance, they didn’t ask. There were too afraid.
You begin to see why in verse thirty-three.
33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. Mark 9:33-34 (ESV)
It was obvious these disciples had their own agenda for Jesus’ kingdom. It was their ticket to greatness. They were having an actual argument over who was the greatest. How could you not love these guys?! They had no tact whatsoever, arguing out loud about who was greater. They were foolish enough to argue about what all of us think, but never say. We’ve all had the thought that we were better than the next guy.
Jesus came into the house and asked them what they were talking about. They didn’t answer Him. They just sat there quietly. He must have felt the unresolved conflict in the room. It was obvious to Him they were just arguing. They probably stayed quiet because they figured He would just rebuke them. It was His pattern. He would give them some statement about how they shouldn’t desire greatness. But that’s not what He did.
Jesus encouraged their desire for greatness.
And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35 (ESV)
He gathered the disciples around Him, not to rebuke them, but to encourage them. He redirected their aim and told them how to be great. He knew humans were hardwired to receive greatness. He created them to be that way. But it is to receive greatness from God, not from the world.
When you read the creation narrative in Genesis, humanity is the crown of creation. He made all of these amazing things, but at the end He created image bearers. They were unique in all of creation. They alone can know God as father and have a personal relationship with Him. They alone rule over creation.
Humans were made for significance. To be revered.
They were also made to receive greatness from God. But sin turned our desire to receive greatness from God into longing to receive greatness from other people. Sin twisted our desires. It didn’t bring new desires, but rather, distorted our God-given ones. Sin has twisted our desires so that now we want others to recognize our greatness, to sing our praises and to follow our lead.
Then it becomes an issue of not just being great, but being greater than the next. When this happens, seeking greatness from one another, its an empty and exhausting process. We will never find the satisfaction we’re looking for.
“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something. Only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich or clever or good looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer or better looking than others. It is the comparison that makes you proud, the pleasure of being above the rest. If I’m a proud man, then as long as there is one man in the whole world more powerful, or richer, or cleverer than I, he is my rival and my enemy. In God you come up against something that is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that and therefore know yourself as nothing in comparison, you do not know God at all?”
When we seek greatness from others instead of the greatness that comes from God, satisfaction is unattainable. There will always be someone better than you to be compared to. There will always be some achievement that you haven’t accomplished.
This seeking of greatness from other people is often an unconscious pursuit. We aren’t even aware we’re pursuing it until we’re denied the greatness we’re looking for. Until we don’t get that promotion, or your kids are embarrassing you in public, or that person doesn’t say thank you or you don’t get re-tweeted.
One of our elders always says, “You know how much of a servant you actually are when you’re treated like one.”
We can say all day that we are servants, until someone treats us like one and doesn’t say thank you or applause our service. All of sudden we want to remind them how you’ve served them and tell them to be thankful. In those moments, when those negative emotions come flooding your way, you begin to realize you’re not a servant, but rather seeking the greatness that comes from other people.
This greatness will always let us down. It will not satisfy. Jesus is coming not to squash this desire for greatness, but to satisfy it. He wants to fill this longing we have with the greatness that comes from God.
And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” Mark 9:35-37 (ESV)
Jesus flips our world completely upside down. He says that greatness is found in comparison to others, but not the first, the last. It’s not those who accomplish great things.
It’s those who serve all people.
He took a child into His arms as an illustration of the type of servant we have to become to be great. We have to serve people who exhaust us, who can’t pay us back or promote us. People who aren’t emotionally fulfilling to be around. Children are not grateful at all. They don’t say thank you. They assume you should do whatever they say. All they do is take. They’re weak and helpless, so that’s all they know to do. We must serve people like this. People we feel, if we were honest, are a little below us.
It’s also important to differentiate that it’s not just service. It’s servant of all.
No one in this room would say you don’t believe in serving people. But we all have those people who we’re unwilling to serve. For some us it’s people we view as irresponsible. We don’t want to encourage their reckless behavior. For some of us, it’s people we view as self-righteous, we don’t want to encourage their arrogance.
If we want to be great, we have to become servants of those people.
This feels impossible to us. What could possibly motivate anyone to become this type of servant?
37 “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 (ESV)
By becoming this type of servant, you get to know God. So the only reason you would want to become this type of servant is if God is your goal. But we know ourselves and our desires for God are usually very weak. We rarely serve those people whom we don’t want to.
Need to be Made New
We don’t just need to know the path to greatness, we need to be changed and made new, so that we can walk on this path.
This is why Jesus kept reminding His disciples that He had to die; they didn’t just need a ruler, they needed a Savior. We need to be changed, so we can actually do what He’s telling us to do. Jesus is coming to rescue us for greatness. To make us new, so we can be great again.
He became last, despised in the eyes of the world. A servant of all, including those who didn’t say thank you, who didn’t respect Him, who didn’t like Him. He did this so you and I could be esteemed and highly favored in the eyes of God, so we can receive the greatness that comes from God.
He has secured a position so significant and great that it makes any so-called greatness here look like nothing.
3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:3-5 (ESV)
When you compare the greatness that comes from God with the best this world has to offer, they don’t compare. Greatness from others in this life can offer you a nicer neighborhood with less crime and brokenness...for a little while. Greatness that comes from God, gives you a spot in a world with no sin, no pain, no death, no evil.
You indeed may receive some great things from this world. But we need to remind one another that it’s not true greatness. It’s small in comparison to what God has in store for His people.
You become a servant because you believe that Jesus became a servant for you on the cross.
This means you becoming a part of a Missional Community with a mindset of one who is coming to serve, not be served by those people. Working for the good of that co-worker you really don’t respect. Loving those who don’t appreciate you. Serving those who won’t return the favor.
The path to greatness runs through the valley of the cross. If we’re going to be great as a church, it’s not found in how large we grow or how influential we are. It’s found in if we become servants of all. That is what our Savior did for us.
We need to look to Jesus for the motivation we need in order to become servants of this city. Of our neighborhood. Of our family.