Sermon 9.23.18 Pentecost 18

September 23, 2018  (18th Sunday after Pentecost)                                                                                                                    Mark 9:30-37 
            Why there are so many shootings and senseless killings?  Someone takes the lives of strangers, people he has never met; and then ends his own life.  Why does that happen? 
            Some say we need more mental health counselors.  Others say we need more police officers and more metal detectors. 
            Or, is there, perhaps, something else that people need?  Do people perhaps need to know more about God and His word?  Do people need to learn that human life is precious, sacred; and that our life on earth has a purpose?
            In our sermon text Jesus’ disciples were discussing the meaning and purpose of their earthly life.  It surprises us that even the disciples were coming up with a lot of wrong answers. 
            This morning Jesus gives us some practical answers.  He talks to us about “service.”  He tells us that
A Key Word in God’s Kingdom Is “Service”
1.  Jesus served us.
2.  We now serve others.
I.  Jesus served us.
      A.  Jesus again announced His suffering
            In the chapters before our sermon text St. Mark tells us how large crowds of people were following Jesus.  Jesus preached God’s word to huge crowds.  He healed hundreds of people and fed thousands.  But suddenly, here in Mark chapter 9, things are different.  We read that Jesus “did not want anyone to know where they were.” (30)  Jesus wanted to be alone with His disciples.  In less than two years Jesus would ascend back into heaven and would send His disciples out into the world as His missionaries.  These 12 men still had a lot to learn.
            Now, when Jesus was alone with His disciples, He announced (once again) what would happen in just another year.  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.” (31)  These words contain the basic teachings of the Christian Church.  We recite similar words every Sunday in the Apostles’ Creed: “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.  On the third day He rose again from the dead.”  We know those words by heart.  Unfortunately, at this point in time, our Lord’s disciples “did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.” (32)  “Arrested?  Put to death?  Rise from the dead?  What for?”
      B.  The disciples had 2 problems
            1. Wanted an earthly kingdom; and saw no need for Jesus’ death
            Our Lord’s disciples had two problems:
  • Problem #1 is that they were looking forward to an earthly kingdom. 
We can almost hear them saying, “Jesus, look around.Things are going well.You have a great following.You have helped thousands of people by giving them food and by healing them from sickness.Everything is set for glorious days ahead.And the headquarters of a magnificent earthly kingdom will be right here in Israel, right here in Jerusalem.–And, of course, Jesus, we, your disciples, are looking forward to having positions of power right along with You.”
  • Problem #2 is that the disciples saw no need for Jesus’ suffering and death. 
The disciples understood that no one is perfect.They were not against the work of the priests and the sacrifices they offered at the temple.But we can almost hear them saying, “Jesus, please do not even think about offering Yourself as a payment for the sins of others.Things are not that bad.In our minds, Jesus, it is foolish to think of the Son of God dying on a cross to pay for sin.”
            2. Similar problems in America today
            Today many people here in the States have those same two problems:
  • Like the disciples, right now the American people are enjoying the earthly kingdom.  The economy is booming.  People have jobs.  They have money.  They are enjoying the tax cuts.  Weekends are filled to the brim with activities - sports, recreation, and playing with the new stuff we just bought.  As a result, many are saying, “Right now, God, many of us simply do not have time to think about You, or Your word, or attending church.  To be honest, God, right now we really don’t need You.”
  • Like the disciples, many people today see no real need for the suffering and death of Jesus.  Many feel that, if there is a God and if a Judgment Day is coming, most of us have nothing to worry about.  Most people here in Appleton are friendly and willing to help others.  Is it really necessary for the Son of God to be arrested, and put to death, as a payment for my sin?” 
      C. Jesus points to the sin of pride
            1.  In hearts of disciples
            Our Savior was disappointed when He heard the response of His disciples.  But He did not scold them.  Instead He patiently explained why He is not going to establish an earthly kingdom; and why they do need a Savior who will offer His life as a payment for sin.  He showed His disciples that they were not as good as they thought.  In fact they had not even kept the first commandment.  They did not “fear, love and trust in God above all things.”  They were busy planning to put themselves above all things. 
             Jesus asked them, “What were you men talking about, what were you arguing about back there on the road?”  Jesus knew exactly what they were talking about.  But the disciples suddenly became very quiet.  “They kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.” (34)  The disciples had a “me-first” attitude.  Their hearts were filled with pride and greed, envy and jealousy.  Our Lord’s own disciples were looking forward to an earthly kingdom; and each of them wanted to be #1; each of them wanted to be greater than the others in this kingdom.
            It is not hard for us to imagine their conversation: 
  • Peter, James and John could say, “We will be greatest because we are Jesus’ closest friends.  Jesus chose us to be the witnesses when He raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead; and He chose us again when He showed His glory on the mount of the transfiguration!” 
  • Matthew could say, “No, in this earthly kingdom, I will be the greatest.  I worked as a tax collector for many years and I know how the system works.”
  • Simon the Zealot might say, “I’m the only one in this group who has experience in politics.  I was a member of the Zealot party for many years.” 
  • Even Judas Iscariot had a claim for greatness.  He could say, “All of you men came from Galilee.  No one respects people from up north.  I come from Judea, near the capital city of Jerusalem.  -And I have experience as the treasurer of our group.”
2. In our hearts
Sinful human hearts today have the same “me-first” attitude.
  • We see that attitude when we watch the behavior of little children. 
  • We see that attitude on the road.  People speed past the others so that they can be first in line at the stoplight. 
  • Sometimes we see that attitude in the church.  People sometimes complain, “The leaders are always doing the wrong thing; they really ought to listen to me.”  I think about the individual who said to me, “I won’t be joining your church unless I can be on the budget committee.”  In other words, “I want to determine how the church spends its money.” 
  • We see that attitude in the home.  Husbands and wives argue about money; and even argue about how to arrange the furniture in the living room.  The attitude is often, “I want what I want.”  
            3.  To show us our need for His service
            Jesus pointed to the “me-first” attitude in the hearts of His apostles.  He points to our “me-first” attitude today.  Then He says to us, “Here is the reason why you need a Savior from sin.  Here is the reason I came into the world.  I did not come to establish an earthly kingdom.  I came to offer my life as a payment for your sins so that you can have eternal life in my heavenly kingdom.
            In the Kingdom of God a key word is “service.”  Jesus entered our world as a servant.  He came to serve us and to save us.
II.  We now serve others
            Each of us still has a sinful heart.  We know that.  But we are no longer unbelievers.  We know why Jesus went to the cross and we trust Him as our Savior.  In the second part of our text Jesus speaks to Christians, to people like us.  He invites us to follow His example by serving others.
      A.  Principle: “Last of all, servant of all”
            Jesus called the 12 disciples to Himself.  Then He said, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be the very last, and the servant of all.” (35)  Wanting to be first is not necessarily wrong.  But there is a God-pleasing way to do it.  The one who desires to be first shall become the last of all and the servant of all.
      B.  In the church
            That’s the way it is in the church.  In our congregation we have a lot of great examples.                                Let’s begin with our pastors.  The word pastor means shepherd.  Because he is our spiritual shepherd, he leads the flock.  He stands up here in the pulpit week after week and tells us what God says.  But our pastor, our leader, is also a “minister,” that is, a “servant.”  He serves the congregation.  If we happen to walk past his office, we might well see him at the computer.  There he studies God’s word and prepares sermons and Bible classes.  We see him getting into his car.  Now he is going to visit someone in the hospital or in the nursing home; or he is going to deal with a problem; or invite someone to join us here on Sunday morning.
            We see that servant-attitude in the lives of many of many fellow members at St. Paul’s.  Here are people who do not care to argue about who is the greatest, but who instead give generously of their time and talents to serve their Lord and fellow Christians.
      C.  In the home
            Jesus is looking for a servant attitude also within our family.  To demonstrate His point, Jesus “took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (36,37)  Taking care of little children is hard work.  Most of us know that.  It means keeping an eye on them so they do not get hurt.  It means giving Christian training, Christian discipline.  It means bringing children to Jesus, bringing them here to this place to hear God’s word, so that Jesus can take our children also up in His arms.   
            Husbands and wives who understand how Jesus served us now desire to serve each other.  Yes, the husband is the head in that marriage and in that family.  But he does not become the boss or the tyrant.  Instead he serves his family by taking responsibility.  He loves his wife and sees her as a most precious treasure.  He wants to help her in whatever way he can, especially when she is tired and when the work is difficult.
            Yes, according to God’s plan the wife is the helper.  On her wedding day she promised to submit to her husband.  But she knows what Jesus has done for us, and she wants to serve her family.  She knows very well the sins and faults of her husband.  But her love covers the multitude of sins and she has a way of making her husband look good in the eyes of others.
            So, why are there so many shootings and killings?  Is it because many know nothing about the work of Jesus – how Jesus served us by offering His life as a payment for sin?  Is it because so many do not see their need for Jesus and the forgiveness He won for us at the cross?  Our job is not to eliminate crime from our world.  That will never happen.  But it is our job to tell others what Jesus told His disciples: “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.” (31)  And it is our privilege to adorn the gospel with a life of service.  By our life of service we draw others to Jesus and His word.  Yes indeed.  In God’s kingdom a key word is “service.”  Amen.                              ajw