MARK 9: 30-37
There Jesus goes again! Turning everything upside-down!
Who wants to be LAST? Anyone here this morning want to be last? It’s pretty hard to take!!
Watching the Olympic “Walking Race”
I recall sometime back there was a story that came out of the SPECIAL OLYMPICS.
It seems that a contestant tripped and fell while running a race. Instead of just charging down the track oblivious to an other competitors distress, the other contestants stopped,
and went back, picked up their fallen comrade, then all ran together to the finish.
FIRST--LAST. Who cared? Everyone made it across. That was all that mattered!
Maybe this is the message Jesus has for us.
Jesus and his disciples "left that place and passed through Galilee.
It seems Jesus wanted some quiet time he with his disciples
He did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was “teaching” his disciples. He said to them,
'The Son of Man is going to be betrayed intothe hands of men they will kill him, and after three days he will rise.'
But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
What's worse, they didn't want to understand him. They were afraid to know the truth.
The reason Jesus understood his purpose so clearly is because he was thinking with the mind of God.
Throughout the Gospels, we read of Jesus spending time in prayer.
Through prayer his feet travelled in the pathway God had laid out for him. But it's painfully obvious in this passage that Jesus' friends did not understand him.
I suspect that many of us “fear prayer” because we're afraid of what will happen if we let God into our lives.
We don’t ask God to reveal “HER will” to us because we just don't want to know! We want a comfortable life, not an abundant one. And if we were to view our lives through God's eyes, we just might have to change the purpose of our live!.
That's the challenge Jesus faced in our Bible passage today. If he's ever going to teach his disciples about the purpose of their lives, now is the time..
The answer was surprising to them, and it's still a challenge for us today.
Verse 33 reads, "When he was in the house, he asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest."
They tried not to talk about it in front of Jesus, of course. Jesus was a funny guy. You never knew how Jesus might take things. They had their private ambitions, but they
preferred that Jesus didn't know about them.
They hadn't really heard Jesus when he told them he would be betrayed, murdered and rise again.
Have you ever had that experience, when someone was talking and your mind wandered.
Probably some of you are experiencing it right now, you know, thinking about what your going to do this afternoon or what to make for supper? All kinds of things can distract us when we don’t really want to hear what’s being said. I do it myself.
So we can have some empathy with the disciples. When Jesus told them what he was going to do, they were busy talking about who would be the greatest.
Which ones would be on top and which ones on the bottom? Nobody knew, but they knew that big changes were coming, and they were nervous.
An interesting thought: What would our answer be if Jesus came to us and asked, "What were you arguing about on the road?"
Well, Lord, we were arguing about language for God - should we use masculine, feminine, both, neither? We were arguing about sexuality - if folks are homosexual, should they be allowed to marry?
We were arguing about which translation of the Bible to purchase. Some of us might argue about how much money shall we give to support the mission of the church around the world when we have so many needs here at home.
Let's stop here and imagine what Jesus was thinking. He knew what his disciples were arguing about. And he knew how shallow and pointless their ambitions appeared when
compared to the life-changing mission God had in store for them.
All these men had was a wish--a wish for greater status, a wish to stand in Jesus' spotlight and soak up some applause. Jesus wanted them to look beyond their own selfish wishes to embrace the purposes of God.
"Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.'"
HERE, IN A NUTSHELL IS THE CENTRAL PURPOSE OF THE CHRISTIAN'S LIFE: TO SERVE OTHERS.
Let me tell you a story about last becoming first. Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is famous for the work that she has done with people who are dying. She revolutionized the care that
people in hospitals and hospices receive as they are dying.
Kubler-Ross noticed that a particular woman seemed to have a special touch with dying patients. She was a maintenance woman who made beds and cleaned rooms and emptied bedpans -- but dying people always seemed to be more peaceful when she was around.
Kubler-Ross asked the woman her secret. Listen to what the woman said. She said:
"Well, I've been up the mountain and I've been down the mountain." "I've lived in many homes, The worst time was when I went to a public clinic with my three year old daughter but she died in my arms before we could see a doctor. She died from pneumonia."
She said "I could have become cynical and angry, but instead I decided to use my pain to help others. I'm no stranger to death and that's why I'm not afraid to talk and touch those who are dying. I try to give them hope."
Kubler-Ross promoted her. She made the woman a special counselor to the dying in that hospital.
That woman who was LAST became FIRST.
We exist to serve, not to be served.
That's the secret of happiness in any job--to see it as a calling-- a vocation.
This is why some people are so unhappy in life. They want to be served rather than to serve. And the ironic thing is that people who are waited on hand and foot are the unhappiest people of all.
One can’t help but notice,
A COMMITMENT TO SERVING PEOPLE IS THE KEY TO SERVING GOD.
Marion Hill, a Hollywood actress, was married to the internationally famous movie director, Otto Preminger.
But she couldn't handle the fast life. While Otto made pictures, she slipped into alcohol, drugs and numerous affairs.
She divorced Otto and attempted suicide three times before
finally moving back to Vienna. There she met another doctor, Albert Schweitzer a Medical Doctor, a famous Theologian and a renown Organist.
He gave up fame and fortune in Europe give his life as a servant to the people in Africa.
When the time came for him to return to his simple hospital in the jungle of Africa, she went with him. She spent the rest of her life as a hospital servant.
In her autobiography:
She wrote: "Albert Schweitzer said there are two kinds of people. There are the helpers, and there are non-helpers. I thank God He allowed me to become a helper, and in helping, I found everything."
Do you see what she is saying? The happiest people are those who understand life is about serving.
To drive home his message Jesus, took a little child in his arms and said:
"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes God who sent me.
Jesus' gesture must have had a profound affect on the disciples, you see, in that time and place, children have so little status -- rank somewhere between a woman and a slave.
The person who welcomes a child is the one who is truly great.
But it isn't just children who we are to welcome. That child stood for anyone who is helpless and needs help -- anyone who is small -- or defenseless -- or hungry
or thirsty -- or naked -- or sick -- or in prison.
Jesus wants us to help people in these situations -- to defend them -- to feed them --offer a cup of drink of water -- to clothe them -- to visit them.
This is how we best serve God--by serving the least and the lowest.
That’s how to make our lives count. Find a place where we can serve.
It may be in our work. It may be here in our church or in our community visiting the hospital or senior residences, working with young people or in a food bank or caring for a family member.
JESUS tells us, we will never be happy or truly GREAT until we recognize that we are here to SERVE.
To SERVE others, particularly the LEAST and the LOWEST, is to serve GOD!