The Great Misunderstanding

September 26, 2021

Pastor John Hering

Mark 9:30-37

Mark 9:30-37

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know this, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He told them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him. But three days after he is killed, he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the statement and were afraid to ask him about it.

33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they remained silent, because on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 Jesus sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he will be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and placed him in their midst. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes not just me but also him who sent me.”

Who doesn’t want to be great!?! Just about everyone wants to be great at something!  Because when you’re great, then you have worth!  Are you a great mom and dad?  Then your kids think you’re totally awesome/worthy.  How about being a great friend, ball player or artist!  Then not only are you great, but add a little intelligence, accomplishments, money, power, control, influence and you’re going to be super great.  I know, we could argue about what makes us great and who among us is the greatest.  The disciples did the same thing—they were arguing about who was the greatest. But, Jesus teaches us that they had a great misunderstanding about what makes us great.  And I’m thinking we’ve all struggled with the same question from time to time.  So, today let’s walk with Jesus and learn about

The Great Misunderstanding

About Jesus’ Suffering and Death

The setting for Mark 9 puts us at a time in Jesus’ ministry when he was spending less time in public and more time privately with his disciples.  He had to take this time to teach them about what was soon going to happen.  30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know this, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He told them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him. But three days after he is killed, he will rise.  Did this sound familiar to you?  That’s because we heard Jesus say something similar in Mark 8 last week.  This is the second time Mark records Jesus teaching his disciples that he had to suffer and die.  The discussion got a little heated between Peter and Jesus last week.  Today, Jesus speaks plainly to his disciples again and we might be a little surprised at their response: 32 But they did not understand the statement and were afraid to ask him about it.

We could argue that the disciples just didn’t get it, or that they didn’t WANT to get it.  A Savior who was going to suffer and die didn’t seem like much of a Savior in their minds—a Great Misunderstanding!  Their idea of a great Messiah wasn’t lining up with Jesus’ description of what he was going to do.  They wanted to be saved from their earthly troubles (sickness, hunger, peace, etc) but Jesus was going to save them from their eternal trouble (hell).  Jesus came to save them from the punishment for all their sins, but who wants to admit that they have sins?  Yes, there were other times when the disciples asked Jesus to explain himself more, but today they were afraid to ask him about it—A Great Misunderstanding About Jesus’ Suffering and Death. 

 You shouldn’t be surprised that the disciples didn’t get what Jesus was explaining to them.  The Holy Spirit had not yet created faith in their hearts to lean on Jesus as their crucified and risen Savior—that hadn’t happened yet.  And they couldn’t fathom it happening at this point either.  I doubt anyone hearing this sermon doubts that Jesus died and rose again.  But, do you understand it?   You see, we all have the same stubborn sinful nature that wants to reject what Jesus said.  Let me show you.

When you think about yourself, how much do you think you’re worth?  If we measure your worth in terms of honor (have you fulfilled your assigned roles as a parent, teacher, administrator, citizen, etc?), then how well you have fulfilled those roles will determine the level of honor we give to you.  Or let’s measure your worth in terms of dignity (modern society says you give yourself the right to develop your own identity and self-worth free from any socially assigned expectation) compared to the respect and legacy you’ve earned to make you worthy.  Then the pressure is on because you want more honor and dignity than others so you’re worth more.  High achievement is so valued that it can become an idol!  How? If we think we get our worth from the honor and dignity that comes from our efforts instead of how the Bible describes worth in God’s kingdom.  In God’s kingdom the repentant tax collectors, prostitutes, sick, poor, widows and failures are highly valued.  Their worth did not come from them, but through faith in Jesus who suffered and died to pay the penalty of all their sins.  St Paul said, For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance so that we would walk in them (Eph 2:10).  Christ is the solution to the Great Misunderstanding of the world.  Jesus Christ’s suffering and death gave us great worth in God’s sight.

This is the message our world needs to hear.  Many have a Great Misunderstanding about Christianity. They want Christianity to be an organization that reforms governments and societies, makes the world a better place to live, heals all diseases, provides for the sick, give you a path to follow for a better life.  The message of Jesus’ death on the cross is not what people want to hear.  But, Jesus’ death was great!  Listen, [Jesus] also shared the same flesh and blood, so that through death he could destroy the one who had the power of death (that is, the Devil) 15 and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death (Heb 2:14-15).  Isn’t this great!  You understand!  Jesus had to die to rescue you from the curse of death.  Jesus offered his precious blood as the price you could never afford to pay for your sins.  Jesus died to offer his perfect life to God that crushed Satan’s power.  Rejoice and thank the Lord that Jesus’ Suffering And Death is NOT a Great Misunderstanding in your heart! 

Transition:  Jesus had just explained to his disciples about his great selfless sacrifice that would save them from sin, death and hell.  How did they respond? 33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they remained silent, because on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.  They didn’t understand what great really was in God’s kingdom.  So, Jesus explained to them  

About What It Means To Be Great

What makes America great?  To answer that question I think we have to ask this, “Great in who’s eyes?”  Here’s a quote from the Marketwatch website: “The latest surveys asked adults in 14 nations about whether they had a favorable or unfavorable view of the United States. The report found that America’s image across these countries has improved by nine points on average since Biden’s inauguration, with U.S. popularity rebounding the most in Germany, Japan and France.”  Do you suppose those countries think we’re greater because we’re putting ourselves first, or putting them first? (I’m not going to answer that political question. LOL).  We have a pretty good idea the disciples were trying to figure out what makes one the greatest by Jesus’ answer.  35 Jesus sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he will be the last of all and the servant of all.  What a paradox (seems absurd at first, but when investigated may very well be true)!  To be first you must be last.  This reasoning flies in the face of most people in the world who believe what it takes to be great. To be the greatest you need the strongest army, not the weakest.  You need to have the best shot on the team, not the worst.  You need to be the tallest and most handsome, not the shortest and most ugly.  How many kids have you heard say, “When I grow up, I want to be last!”  Or “When I grow up I want to be a servant of everybody else!”  Our natural ambition is not to be last, but to be first!  That’s greatness in the eyes of the world!

Don’t fall for the Great Misunderstanding About What It Means to Be Great.  You might be great because you have many gifts and talents, because of high authority and letters before and after your name, or because you go to church every Sunday and have never missed a church clean up day.  Watch out for the danger of seeing yourself as the greatest…. In the eyes of the world.  For no matter how great we think we are, or how great others think we might be, we are humbled by who we truly are: sinners. For in God’s eyes, All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a filthy cloth (Isaiah 64:6).

To Understand What I Mean To Be Great, to know where we have honor, dignity and worth, then look to the cross of Jesus.  There at the cross you see what is real, lasting greatness.  There Jesus gave his precious, worthy life as the ransom price for us all.  That’s greatness in God’s eyes.  There Jesus put your needs before his own needs.  That’s greatness in God’s eyes.   There Jesus gave his holy life to suffer the eternal wrath of God in your place.  That’s greatness in God’s eyes.  This means your greatness is not dependent on you, but on Jesus who made you worthy.  That’s great in God’s eyes.  You are great in God’s eyes, not because of what you’ve accomplished in this life, but because of what Jesus accomplished for you with his own life.  What could possibly be left?  Let Jesus show you.

36 Then he took a little child and placed him in their midst. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes not just me but also him who sent me.  What a great illustration by Jesus!  This little child doesn’t look too great in the eyes of the world. But, for all your parents, teachers and care-givers who selflessly serve children to teach them the precious name of Jesus, God says this is Great Service in God’s Eyes!  Just think, Divine Peace, you welcome little children in Jesus’ name because you see to it that we have Kingdom Kids, with a brand-new smart TV.  Why?  So we can teach our children about Jesus.  That’s great in God’s eyes.

Do you see Jesus’ point?  In God’s kingdom characteristics of worth, honor, integrity and greatness come from humbly serving others with peace, love, consideration, submission, mercy and sincerity all because Jesus loves us so much. Then Jesus says you Know What It Means To be Great in God’s Eyes.

I thank God for you.  You are great.  God made you great at your baptism and filled your heart with the gospel of Jesus so that you are great moms and dads, friends, workers, neighbors, and church members.  You are great because through faith in Jesus you have received what God had to offer you—Greatness in His Kingdom.  You are great because you are God’s workmanship.  Now be what God has made you.  Be Great Sons and Daughters of the King!  Amen!

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