"Like a Child" Sunday, September 23, 2018 - 9 AM
Like A Child – Mark 9:30-37 Bascomb UMC / September 23, 2018 / 9AM Focus: The position of a disciple as humble servant of God’s creation. Function: To put all church leaders into an attitude of humble, childlike service. 5 Purpose Outcomes of the Church: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Evangelism, Service Mark 9:30-37 (CEB) Jesus predicts his death 30 From there Jesus and his followers went through Galilee, but he didn’t want anyone to know it. 31 This was because he was teaching his disciples, “The Human One will be delivered into human hands. They will kill him. Three days after he is killed he will rise up.” 32 But they didn’t understand this kind of talk, and they were afraid to ask him. 33 They entered Capernaum. When they had come into a house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about during the journey?” 34 They didn’t respond, since on the way they had been debating with each other about who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all.” 36 Jesus reached for a little child, placed him among the Twelve, and embraced him. Then he said, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me isn’t actually welcoming me but rather the one who sent me.” Major screwups! Like the UPS delivery that actually barred the residents from leaving their own apartment. Or the Far Side’s “Roger” who swears he won’t screw up this time! Yep! He does…… And Jesus must play momma to these 12 boys. I think we can all relate to Mark's portrayal of the disciples. These guys are thick headed, slow to get the scoop, they are a real test for Jesus as a teacher. They may follow Jesus but they rarely understand his teaching. They witness miracles and miss the meaning behind them. They vow to never leave his side and then run away. Every single one of these guys ends up fleeing at Jesus's arrest, and one of them slips from the grips of a guard by leaving his cloak behind (we think that was Mark). How's that for TMI? But Jesus still loves these bungling misfits. Even Peter, disciple #1, denies Jesus three times and the last appearance of the disciples in the Gospel of Mark is an image of Peter weeping uncontrollably. Scholars believe Mark’s gospel to be Peter’s account of Jesus and Mark is pretty hard on the disciples. There's just no nice way to put it - they are a bunch of screw ups in this text today; arguing about who is the greatest among them. It’s like arguing about the greatest of the stooges Jerry Seinfield believed it was better to come in last than win the silver medal in the Olympics. Gold is first - top of the heap. Bronze, you think, ‘at least I got something.’ But if you win silver, Jerry says that’s like, ‘Congratulations, you almost won! Of all the losers, you came in first! You’re the number one loser! No one lost ahead of you!’ ” I guess he’s right if the only point of competition is to win. But there is more to life than winning! You know there are activities that don’t create winners and losers. Swimming, walking, running, and playing outside can all be healthy non-competitive activities. Kids may cheat or fight when they’re going head to head at Checkers or Chutes and Ladders. But there are board games from folks like Family Pastimes, a Canadian Company started by Jim Deacove. According to their website, “Players help each other climb a mountain, make a community, bring in the harvest, complete a space exploration... They are never against each other.” And there is so much more to our faith than heaven when we die. Each gospel has an emphasis for the disciples. Matthew wants them to “duplicate” or make more disciples, Luke wants them to give witness to what they saw, John wants them to deeply believe that Jesus in God in the flesh, and Mark wants them to follow the example of Jesus. Walk the walk and follow the way of Jesus. These disciples are supposed to be insiders who are privy to the mystery of God's kingdom and students of Jesus's private instructions. But what a classroom of…. well, challenges Jesus must face as the story unfolds. Followers? …that couldn't be further from the truth. They understand very little of what Jesus is teaching and doing. Jesus isn't oblivious to it, either. Listen to how flustered he is: “Don’t you grasp what has happened? Don’t you understand? Are your hearts so resistant to what God is doing? Don’t you have eyes? Why can’t you see? Don’t you have ears? Why can’t you hear? (sounds like some teachers I know) Don’t you remember? When I broke five loaves of bread for those five thousand people, how many baskets full of leftovers did you gather?” They answered, “Twelve.” “And when I broke seven loaves of bread for those four thousand people, how many baskets full of leftovers did you gather?” They answered, “Seven.” Jesus said to them, “And you still don’t understand?” Mark 8:17-21 (CEB). Hear that exhaustion in his voice? One might wonder why Jesus even continues to hang out with these guys? Truth be told, God is always choosing unlikely candidates for ministry, right? I mean, just look at us! It is important to give God the glory for the kingdom among us and not take the credit for ourselves. That has been God’s pattern through out the OT and now that pattern continues with these guys. Well, as much as we love giving them a hard time, the disciples aren't just bumbling screwups. In fact—they can be pretty solid at times and worthy of imitation. Let’s list a few of the best items on their resume: (one slide for each) • They forsake everything when Jesus calls them to discipleship. • They do, at times, have successful missions and teach us so much by their epic fails. They just resemble us SO MUCH! • They, at least partially, recognize Jesus as Messiah, even if they can't fully understand what that means. • And, of course, the disciples do end up following Jesus correctly after the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. They all, as Jesus taught them, gave their lives in various ways, for the sake of the gospel. Most, we believe, did sacrifice themselves as martyrs - except John, of course, who is exiled to Patmos to write the book of Revelation. Basically, for the sake of the church, they became …well, kind of a big deal for us. The theme of discipleship in Mark is follow. Follow Jesus throughout his ministry, and you see that he associates with the least and the last in society -- Gentile women, lepers and any sick or possessed person, tax collectors and other notorious “sinners.” And in this text and future texts he even welcomes and makes time for little children. A difficult lesson for a bunch of guys spending time arguing about who is the greatest! In any culture, children are vulnerable. They are, after all, dependent on others for their survival and well-being. However, in this NT world, it was magnified by the fact that children had no legal protection. A child had no status, no rights. A child certainly had nothing to offer anyone in terms of honor or status. How upside-down then for Jesus to claim that………. “Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me isn’t actually welcoming me but rather the one who sent me.” Mark 9:37 (CEB). We really don’t honor those who work with our children do we? Not if you rank them by salary. Hit a baseball, throw a football the length of a field and you can make millions. Teach children and you better make a good marriage if you want any financial security. Those who clean, wait tables, harvest our crops, and teach our children are among the true “servant class” of American society. Serving means activity, yes, but in the greater sense it means identity. This is why Jesus lifts up the child in their midst. A child is a child not because of some effort they make. It is who they are. In those days, a child was as status-less as a slave. To be a servant is a mentality. It is a state of mind. Paul put it like this: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” Philippians 2:5 (NIV) Becoming a servant is a way of seeing oneself in a new light, in the light of the greater greatness of the glory of God. In the end, becoming a servant is a way of seeing others in a new light, in the light of the greater love of God. Maybe we're supposed to strive to outdo the twelve disciples. This church is searching for our leadership in 2019. We need leaders who understand service. They always say: “too many cooks… spoil the broth,” and there are always “too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.” There can be only one Jesus. The rest of us better be disciples. That means we want to be like the first twelve in some sense because we know their faults. What do you think? The radical grace of God that Jesus proclaims, and lives completely obliterates the world’s notions of greatness based on status, wealth, achievement, etc. Perhaps that is one reason we resist grace so much. It is much more appealing to be great on the world’s terms than on Jesus’ terms. Greatness on Jesus’ terms means being humble, lowly, and vulnerable …like a child. Greatness on Jesus’ terms is risky; it can even get a person killed. But as Jesus teaches repeatedly, his way of greatness is also the path of life. First and last aren’t the only categories we have. It’s about so much more than winning….it’s about serving. Will you be a servant today?