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Author:Rev. David Stares
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Masterton
 New Zealand
Title:The Servant Leader
Text:Mark 10:32-45 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. David Stares, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Mark 10:32-45 Manuscript

What is the point of church? I think that it is a particularly important question today as church leaders in our own denomination and around the world have noted that as our response to covid has been to make it easier for people to join in worship from their homes, we might wonder, well, if I can just sit at home and watch the service and hear the sermon and sing the songs, essentially doing what the people present are doing, then what is the point of gathering? Well, the point, of course, is that God calls us to assemble, so it is a matter of obedience, but he calls us to assemble with the purpose of building and maintaining a community. As we read in Hebrews 10:25, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” The opposite of failing to assemble isn’t simply turning up, it is encouraging one another. We gather because it is here that we love both God AND our neighbour. It is here that we can both be encouraged by AND follow the example of our servant king.

Because our king gave himself for our ransom, we can do the same for others.

1) Jesus’ Future

2) Jesus’ Cup

3) Jesus’ Service

1) Jesus’ Future

Now, as we begin our passage, we see that what Jesus had began before the rich man approached is continued, that Jesus and his disciples are headed on the road up to Jerusalem. And this language is reflected in the songs of ascents, they are called songs of ascents because when the people of Israel would go to Jerusalem, they would have to climb. We know form the next section that Jesus is going to go through Jericho. Jericho is 250 metres below sea level and Jerusalem is 800 metres above sea level, so we are talking about a kilometer elevation change. For a sense, it is the same elevation as climbing to Powell hut, but over three times the distance. So that means it isn’t nearly as steep, but still a very noticeable climb!

And Jesus, we see is striding ahead, he is walking with purpose such that even his own disciples were amazed at his pace, demeanor and determination. And those who followed even further behind, the crowds were fearful about what this might mean.

Well, Jesus perceives their astonishment and confusion, and so he takes his disciples aside and gives them an explanation of his actions v.33-34.

Now, it is important that once again Jesus refers to himself as the son of man. And this is a reference to Daniel 7:13-14. There is a prophecy of the glorious king and his glorious kingdom. And so, not only does the term identify him as a human being, a literal son of man, it also identifies him as the one who wil rule this glorious kingdom. One whose dominion will last forever, and Jesus says “That is me.”

But once again, his reference to being the son of man is a lead in to something that is not so clearly understood about him. That the pathway to his glory is paved with suffering. Not a suffering in which Jesus is the unwilling victim. Rather he knows what will happen and he is going to experience it.

What he  tells his disciples here builds on what he has told them before 8:31, 9:31, but it adds a large amount of detail. And the detail that he adds don’t improve the situation, does it? Not only will he be betrayed by his own people, his own people are going to hand him over to a worse sort of person, the Gentiles. People who were born outside of the covenant. People who were unclean and lived completely apart from God. And those Gentiles are going to mock him, those gentiles are going to spit on him. Those gentiles are going to whip him. Those gentiles are going to kill him. What Jesus is telling his disciple is that he is going to become the lowest of the lowest of the low.

Yes, the end will be glory, the end will be that three days later. Now, it is perhaps important to mention here that the phrase ‘after three days’ was a Jewish phrase in use in those days which was understood to mean ‘the day after tomorrow.’ But the path to being that son of man, that glorious eternal king, would be through what we read in Isaiah 53 – piercing, crushing, scourging, oppression, affliction It’s a path through the grave.

Jesus, the son of man, has set his face to Jerusalem to suffer, be humiliated and die.

2) Jesus’ Cup

Well, as is common to Jesus giving the disciples a new revelation, their response is confusion. And this isn’t told us explicitly, but it is shown by the response of the disciples. Because we have these two brothers. The same two brothers who went with Jesus as part of that inner circle to witness the transfiguration. And now, perhaps because Jesus seems to be walking towards a climax, and perhaps emboldened by their place, come to Jesus with a request.

And they broach it with a somewhat comical lead-up. And maybe the parents here have heard this tactic. Where a kid will come up to you and say, “whatever I ask, I want you to say yes.” And any parent knows that their request is probably going to be declined. Well, James and John do essentially this, although probably seeking something like what the generous kings of Jesus day would have said, “Up to half of my kingdom I will give it to you!”

Well, that isn’t Jesus’ response. He is wiser than that. V.36

And here is their request v.37

And this shows just how wrong their understanding is of Jesus’ mission. They are coming on the back of Jesus’ description of his own humiliation and death,, and they are still clearly living with the mindset of seeking glory. They are dreaming of the day when jesus wil take up again the throne of David, and what they want is part of that glory.

And if we had any question about whether they knew what was going on, Jesus says v.38a. And to this Jesus responds with the question v.38b. Now what is this image? Well, it is an image that we see reflected in some ways in the Psalms, that the cup can be an image of wrath, and that the baptism is a full commitment. Jesus is saying that not only is this a humiliation, but that he is taking on the full wrath of God for sinners. And that this is not a path that James and John are capable of following.

Now probably in ignorance, they say that they are able, and Jesus confirms that this is what will happen with them. They will suffer. They will need to be ready to walk the road of suffering. But this walk won’t be something that earns them some special place in the kingdom. It is the ordinary run-of-the-mill expectation of a disciple of Jesus. The point is that Jesus is going to walk the road to glory through suffering, and what he is telling James and John is must be ready to suffer for him. Discipleship isn’t a progression from strength to strength, but walking the road of humiliation and weakness with Jesus. To sit on his right and his left, or to be great in the kingdom of God is not something to be conferred by those in the primary place, or given to those who have achieved glory.

3) Jesus’ Service

Now, let’s not be too harsh on these two brothers, as if they are worse than the rest, because as we read in v.41. This indignation from the others isn’t because they think that they have misunderstood Jesus’ mission, and their place in it. The rest of the disciples are mad because they asked first. Because they threw their hat in the ring for something they all wanted!

And so Jesus calls them all together. And he does so to set in contrast the way of the world that their minds are set on, and the way of his kingdom. V.42

What Jesus is pointing out is that worldly power looks a certain way. That if you want to see who is great in the world, you can know it by who is able to wield power, and who is able to get people to do what they want. And we understand that, don’t we. We understand that elections have consequences. We understand that when a government gets power, they are going to use that power in a way that represents their interests, their values, and the values of the people who support them. And whether people want it or not, the government exercises, or wields authority over its people. Worldly greatness means power, and power means doing what you want when you want to whom you want. (repeat) And that is the sort of power that the disciples would love to have in the kingdom of God.

But instead, here is the principle v.43. And here is a comment that attacks the heart. The disciples want to be great. And they want to be great by receiving power and exercising power. But, Jesus says that this isn’t the way of greatness in the kingdom. If worldly greatness means power, and power means doing what you want when you want to whom you want. Then greatness in the kingdom of God means weakness, and weakness means serving all at all times. (repeat)

It is greatness that doesn’t sound like greatness at all. It is a definition of greatness that no one would ever come up with. In order to understand the radical nature of this command, you need to let yourself see how little you want to do it. How hard it is to be the servant of all. How there are so many situations where you want others to serve you and how there are many people that you have no intention of serving.

And if we are honest, it is a definition of greatness that runs so contrary to our hearts that we might wonder if we want greatness in the kingdom of God at all.

And then we see how turned our hearts are against the love God expects. And we are driven to cry out with Paul ‘Oh wretched man that I am, who can save me from this body of death?” How can this fundamental desire of my heart be changed from a desire for power to a desire for slavery. What even would that look like?

And here is the answer. V.45.

The answer is that Jess shows us the way. v.45 That he, the son of man, or as Philippians 2 points out, the one who had all the glory of God, was willing to make himself nothing for you. If the son of God could stride forward to Jerusalem to be condemned, spat on, mocked, whipped, and killed, for us, then we can surely seek to be the same for the others he loves.

And that is one massive reason why it is so important to gather. To care for, encourage, and serve one another. Gathering gives us an opportunity to put this into practice. To do as Jesus commands in our text for the people sitting next to me.

We can look out for the needs of others, take care over the concerns of others, be committed to the help of others, and know that the same king whose glory came through service will also empower us to serve by the Spirit he has given us.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. David Stares, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. David Stares

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