Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Not So With You!

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

The Fifth Sunday of Lent-B
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

Mark 10: 43bBut it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

INRODUCTION: Have you ever tried to explain something to someone, and now matter how many different ways you said it, they still didn’t get it?  It can be a little frustrating, especially if the message you want to get across to them is important.  I can’t help but think that our Lord was getting a little frustrated with His disciples in the beginning of our gospel lesson this morning.  You see He was trying to tell them what was about to happen to Him as He made His way up to Jerusalem.  And this was now the third attempt to do it.

Jesus first tried to prepare them for the reason He came to walk this earth right after Peter’s confession to Him, when Peter said, “You are the Christ” [Mark 8:29] After that confession, Jesus proclaimed to them that “the Son of Man must suffer many things”.  Peter speaking for the rest of them took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him.” [Mark 8:32]  That didn’t go well for Peter because right after this Jesus looked at him and said, “Get behind Me, Satan!”[Mark 8:33]

Jesus next attempt to communicate this important message to His disciples did not have any better results.  He clearly said that, “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.” [Mark 9:31]  But you know what, not one of His inner circle reacted, because “they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask Him (the meaning).” [Mark 9:32]

[Mark 10:32-34] And so we arrive at His third attempt, as recorded in our gospel reading this morning.  “(Jesus and His disciples) were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.  (They were amazed and afraid, because they knew that the religious authorities who were out to stop Jesus from becoming the Savior of Israel were located in the very place they were headed, Jerusalem.  And the apostles knew that these authorities would use any means available stop Him!)  And taking the twelve (aside, He again) began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Wow! Jesus has provided a lot more information this time. You can’t get any clearer than that, can you?!  Surely they had to get the purpose for Jesus birth, life, and ministry now, right?  Well let’s see, James and John approached Him privately; maybe they got it.

[Mark 10:35-37] “Excuse us Jesus can we have a moment with you?  We want you to do something for us, whatever we ask of you.”  And (Jesus) said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And they said to Him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (In other words, let us be your number one and number two guys after you get into power!)”  Nope, they still don’t get it.  So Jesus tried to shed a little more light on His message.

[Mark 10:38-41] “You (really) don’t know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink (by cup, Jesus was using an Old Testament term that was clear to everyone; He meant the cup of God’s wrath that brought only suffering), (are you able) to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  (By baptism, Jesus meant His very death, which He had been trying to prepare everyone for).  “And they said to Him, “We are able.”  O.K., these two apostles still don’t get it, but how about the other 10?  Surely the rest of Jesus’ inner circle finally understands!  “And when the ten heard (what James and John had just asked Jesus) they began to be indignant at James and John (in other words they were becoming very angry with them).  Now scripture doesn’t tell us anymore than that, but by the context we can surmise that a possible reason for their anger against James and John was that they were jockeying for positions of authority at the expense of the other ten.  In other words, they were mad because these two beat them to the punch! 

Well, it was time for another teaching moment, and Jesus was about to teach them a basic truth about God’s kingdom; it would be a teaching that would only make sense after they experienced the very thing He was trying to prepare them for.  They must experience the terror and fear of His betrayal, beating, and execution, and then they must experience the joy of His resurrection and ascension before they would understand this great eternal truth, which He was about to give them.

[Mark 10:42-45] “And Jesus called them to Him,” (He made sure He had the attention of each of them) and (He) said to them, “You know that those who are considered the rulers (of this world) lord it over them.  (They love to use and many times abuse their authority).  (But not so with you!)  But whoever (wants to) be great (in God’s eyes, in my kingdom), must be (a servant among the rest), and whoever (wants to) be first among (the rest) must be (the) the slave of all.”  Just in case this sounded ridiculous and beneath them, Jesus closed the lesson with these words, “For even the Son of Man (even I, Jesus said) came not to be served but to serve, and to give (my) life as a ransom for many.”

Dear friends, do we truly understand the meaning of this lesson?  At first Jesus Words might sound an awful lot like Law.  Whoever wants to be great must be a servant to all others…whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all!  What?  How can we do this?  It is against everything that is natural to this world and my own personality.  We might be tempted to simply shake our heads and chalk this teaching up to another mystery found in God’s Word, but Jesus will not allow us that luxury.  You see he provides the answer to the mystery.  He provides the key that unlocks the teaching in order to change the way we think.  He provides the gospel… He provides Himself!  “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  To give his life as a ransom for many; friends this is the key that unlocks your captivity to a weary and futile sin sick life, and in place it gives you freedom… it gives you a new and abundant life!

How does this teaching change us?  Well let’s look at the world today, people living their lives all around us.  Within this world, people in positions of authority tend to lord it over others, they become a legend in their own minds as they give order to do this and do that, go here and go there, but Jesus is saying He comes to do the opposite.  As God the Son, in human flesh, He came to Lord it under us.  He came to serve us with His perfect life so that we too might have an abundant life and He serves us with His death and resurrection so that we might find hope and an abundant life with meaning!  Because we know that Christ came to stand in our place under the Law of God, to suffer the punishment that we deserve, and to die the death that has fallen upon us we are not afraid of sin, death, and the devil!  Because we know that Christ came indeed to take our place, to be our substitute, to stand in for us, to come to terms with guilt and sin and death on our behalf, our focus is not on our actions but on what He has done for us!  He is the one who came to give his life as a ransom for many, as the Suffering Servant.  Because of His work for us and in us, we become new men, women, and children, who walk this earth with a purpose…and that purpose is to allow Him to work through us as we serve and love God and each other.

ILLUSTRATION: A parable is told of a community of ducks waddling off to duck church one Sunday to hear their duck preacher. After they waddled into the duck sanctuary, the service began and the duck preacher spoke eloquently of how God had given the ducks wings with which to fly. He pounded the pulpit with his beak and said, With these wings, there is nowhere we ducks cannot go! There is no God-given task we ducks cannot accomplish! With these wings we no longer need walk through life. We can soar high in the sky! Shouts of Amen!¨ were quacked throughout the duck congregation. The duck preacher concluded his message by exclaiming, With our wings we can fly through life! WE……CAN…..FLY!!!!¨ More ducks quacked out loud AMENS! in response. Every duck loved the service. In fact all the ducks that were present commented on what a wonderfully convicting message they had heard from their duck preacher…. and then they left the church and waddled all the way home. You know friends; too often we too waddle away from worship the same way we waddled in…. Unchanged.

But this is not why Jesus suffered and died for you! Jesus wants you to be transformed by His presence in your life.  He wants you to look at life the way He does.  Where there is loneliness and pain, with Jesus working within you, He wants to bring hope and joy.  Where there’s want and need in our community, Jesus wants to fill some of those needs.  Where some in our community see this church as a private meeting of likeminded Christians, with Jesus working within us, He sees us also as becoming a place of community and a house of hope for all of our neighbors who live in Jamacha and Encanto, Spring Valley and Lemon Grove.  But we must remember that it is Jesus within us and around us that makes us more than just another face in the crowd.

CONCLUSION: I would like to close with this last story.  The donkey that Jesus rode on Palm Sunday, awakened on Monday morning, with his mind still celebrating the most exciting day of his life. Never before had he felt such a rush of pleasure and pride. He got out of bed, walked into town and found a group of people by the well. “I’ll show myself to them,” he thought. But they didn’t notice him. They went on drawing their water and paid him no mind. “Throw your garments down,” he said crossly. “Don’t you know who I am?” They just looked at him in amazement. Someone slapped him across the tail and ordered him to move. “Miserable heathens!” he muttered to himself. “I’ll just go to the market where the good people are. They will remember me.” But the same thing happened. No one paid any attention to the donkey as he strutted down the main street in front of the market place. “The palm branches! Where are the palm branches!” he shouted. “Yesterday, you threw palm branches!” Hurt and confused, the donkey returned home to his mother. “Foolish child,” she said gently. “Don’t you realize that without Him, you are just an ordinary donkey?”

Friends, this world likes to be rewarded and respected for the service it renders.  It likes to have the center of attention placed of people who do important things, BUT NOT SO WITH YOU!  Because you know, that just like the donkey who carried Jesus into Jerusalem, you are most fulfilled when you are in the service of Jesus Christ. And without him, all your best efforts are like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and amount to nothing. When we lift up Christ, however, we are no longer ordinary people, but key players in God’s plan to redeem the word.  Where is God asking you to bring His Son?  Look around you in this church and within our community; the needs are many and if God was counting on only you it could be overwhelming, but dear friends, when each of us simply meets as they arise and as God provides, a funny thing happens we begin to feel fulfilled.  And something else happens, God is glorified and people who need Jesus’ extraordinary presence in their lives are drawn to Him because of your service to Him.  I pray that God bring this spirit of service and love into each of our hearts and into our congregation through the power of His Holy Spirit and because of the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord!  AMEN!