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midweek sermon

Mark 9:30-37

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Wed. after the 16th Sun. after Trinity
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Wed, Sep 22, 2021 

The Lord was passing through Galilee, but He did not want anyone to know it.  Why?  He was avoiding the crowds and the public attention.

The next words in our text tell us why.  It says, “For He was teaching His disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him,’” etc.  The reason to avoid the crowds was to teach the disciples.  This specific teaching was something Christ wanted to do in private.

Why not tell the crowds?  Well, look at the reaction of the disciples.  They did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask Him.  Here we have the teaching process malfunction, not because of the lack of skill by the Teacher, but rather the students.  They lacked courage to ask when their poor comprehension caused them to fail to grasp His words.

They should have understood.  The Old Testament pointed to the coming of the Suffering Servant.  In the beginning, God promised that the Seed of Woman would only crush the serpent’s head by having His own heel crushed.  The Savior must be a Passover Lamb who sheds His Blood so that death passes over.  And so forth.  The disciples should have been led by the Holy Spirit to discern the task of their Lord.  They should have said, “Oh!  You’re the Messiah who came to suffer for us!  Of course, it all makes sense now.”

But human reason cannot understand such things.  Even led by the Spirit through Scripture, the disciples failed to see.

If this was the reaction of the Twelve who were personally taught by the Lord, how much more would the crowds misunderstand.  So Christ only told His disciples.

Why bother teaching them at all?  Surely He knew that they would fail to learn the lesson He taught.  But He taught so that later, after all things were accomplished, they could remember His promises.

He promised that He would suffer, What a strange promise!  Human reason cannot even see that it is a promise at all!  But we, from our privileged position in history, understand that He has suffered for us, in our place.  Therefore His prediction of suffering is a wonderful promise of salvation.

Delivered into the hands of men, He would be killed.  The wise, gentle teacher who practiced and preached pure love would be treated with ugly hatred.  The man who healed so many would be grievously wounded without anyone to help Him, until He breathed His last.

Can we blame the disciples for misunderstanding when it seems so impossible that the most innocent Man should suffer the most?  Surely we also would have misunderstand, our minds rejecting the knowledge that seems so wrong.

But then He would rise after three days.  Saint Mark records this idiomatic way of speaking, “after three days,” although Saint Matthew says, “on the third day”.  In Western language, the words “after three days” sounds like He would be raised on Monday.  But that was the ancient figure of speech to indicate the time span.  Sunday is after three days, because you count each part of a day as a complete day.  So He is raised on Sunday.

What a great promise this is!  The Son of Man must suffer and die, but death does not get the last word.  The work of the Son of Man is complete so that He will surely ascend to the Father and receive power and authority and a kingdom that does not fade.  So Daniel the prophet wrote about the Son of Man.  The same One who suffered so much for us was raised to the highest place.  So He would draw us for whom He suffered to the highest place as well.  His resurrection is ours.  Although we may wait a great deal more than three days, we will most surely rise to glory.  Nothing can stop that from happening, since the Son of Man has guaranteed it with His own lifeblood.

Praise God!

The reaction of the disciples on the road later should have been something along the lines of, “Wow!  Our dear Lord is doing so much for us!  We will all sit in glory with Him!  He is humiliating Himself so much for us!  How wonderful and gracious toward us sinners!”

But no, instead they are discussing who will be greatest in the kingdom.  Notice how their failure to comprehend the Gospel leads to them grasping and grabbing at fleshly greatness.  In the same way, the more the Church strays from the pure message, the more it will resemble the world.  Competition, ambition, personal desire replace humble service and trust in the work of Christ, rather than our own work.  How often this has happened in the historic Church is undoubtedly beyond counting.

What is worse is when it happens to us, who have the pure Gospel.  Our flesh can slip in and start leading us along.  Of course, the flesh cloaks its desires with an appearance of pious humility.  Pride replaces humility.  A kind of secretive competitiveness develops so easily when we compare ourselves to others.  Our flesh likes to say, “I’ll bet when the Judgment comes I will be greater than him.  I’m so much better!” It doesn’t matter what standard we use.  It may sound good.  I think I love more than others, or I think I have better worship than others, or better doctrine.  Obviously, it is good to have excellent love and worship and doctrine.  But these things are not mine.  They are gifts from someone else.  My boasting in them, even if it is only in my head, is the height of foolishness.  But that is exactly what our flesh likes to do.

The true greatness, says Christ, is to receive Christ.  He shows how to do that.  He takes a child, wrapped in His arms, so that Christ and the little child practically occupy the same space, as if to say, “Look!  Here I am, and here is a child!  Think of this whenever you see a lowly child, that I am there.  To serve the child is to serve Me.”

This means to make yourself a servant so lowly that no one is beneath you.  You are beneath all.  “That’s easy!” we say.  But is it?  Do we enjoy changing a nasty diaper?  Do we enjoy wiping spit up?  Do we like dealing with a child’s tantrum?  True service includes all the unpleasant things that go along with it.  Service is not choosing what we find pleasant, but obligating ourselves to deal with what is difficult, for the sake of another, even if that other is unpleasant or difficult.

Christ did the same for us.  Whatever was most unpleasant, He dealt with.  He met our sins and guilt and death and damnation, and He took care of them.  He stooped down so low that even we nasty sinners were not beneath His service.

So we should do the same.  All people are candidates for our service, even those unpleasant ones, the ones that rub us the wrong way, the hateful ones who will receive our service and then flip us off or call us a nasty name.  Even those are not beneath us.

When we do this, we are receiving Christ, and thus receiving His Father.  For we do not receive based on our goodness, but upon the goodness of Christ.  In His Name, we serve even the worst, and it is to our glory because it is to the glory of Christ and His Father.  On the other hand, if we wanted glory for ourselves by doing wonderful deeds, then we get nothing.  It is to our shame.  Only deeds done in Christ’s Name, that is, covered by His Blood, cleansed deeds that are holy by virtue of Christ, not by our virtues – these are pleasing to God.

Therefore in faith, we serve our neighbor.  Out of gratitude to Christ, we make ourselves like Christ.  Thus He will receive us to His Father in glory and seat us with angels and saints and apostles, forever and ever.  Amen.

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