Thursday, March 26, 2015

“Willing to be a Slave” (Mark 10:43-45)

S-1486 5SIL/3B 3/22/2015 Hymns: (O) #149; (S) #390; L.S. #155; #314; #55; (C) #158

Texts: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

Theme: “Willing to be a Slave” (Mark 10:43-45)

Question: “How do you want people to remember you?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text is from the Gospel lesson: “And Jesus called them to Him and said to them, But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

People of the Cross, you, who have been purchased with the crimson blood of the Savior, there is no denying it. This text deals with two big important words that show who we really are. Both begin with letter “S” and both have a result with a word that begins with “S.” The first word is “SELFISHNESS” and the second “SELFLESNESS”. Selfishness separates us from one another but more importantly, it separates us from God. Selflessness draws us into the service of others and more importantly into the service of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

So, which word rule and reigns in our hearts? Because we are born sinful, our tendencies are to be SELFISH. That is just the way the old Adam is. We see it clearly in the Gospel reading this morning not only in James and John, but in all 12 of the Disciples. But we see selflessness in the response of Jesus the greatest teacher as He takes the opportunity to teach them and us about serving and being slaves.

In the text we find 10 of Jesus’ twelve disciples were hot under the collar. Their anger was aimed at James and John. Why? Because James and John had just asked Jesus to give them the top two spots in His cabinet when His Kingdom came into power. But they were most likely mad that they didn’t think to ask first!

These two Sons of Thunder wanted to sit, one at the right and left hand of Jesus. They asked because they had a warped view of the Kingdom of God. They thought it would be ushered in by conflict and conquest. We see this in the word they use for left in the original Greek. The word has military overtones. They wanted in on the action of winning salvation. But that’s not what Jesus had in mind. In response, Jesus uses a word that is different. His word flows from the sweet Gospel. Jesus wants to build something that will last for eternity—and it is something that flows out of God’s eternal promises to save humanity.

After three years of learning from history’s greatest teacher, it didn’t appear that any of them had learned much. Even as the disciples draw closer and closer and closer to the dark Day of Judgment—Good Friday, they are missing the point on life, love, and liberty. They are still slaves to their passions. PAUSE.

To want to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus IS a selfishness and self-centered request. It does not take into consideration the other ten or the Kingdom which Christ is building. But worse, they are clueless regarding the depth of suffering, sacrifice, and sorrow Jesus will need to go through to save not just Judah and Israel but the world—including you and me.

Sitting at the Right and Left Hand of Jesus doesn’t mean power. It means being willing to be staked to a cross. Ironically, the position James and John were asking for will be reserved for two thieves on Good Friday who are nailed to the cross; one on Jesus’ left and the other on His right. This King and His court will be enthroned on roughhewn wooden crosses, with bodies draped with robes of blood beholding a King whose head is embedded with a crown of thorns and scepter—a spear in the side—to give birth to His bride.

The Kingdom of the Messiah takes furious form with a terrible, towering tortuous cross. On that cross Jesus will drink humanity’s full cup of suffering; and God’s wrath. He also will be plunged into the waters of a baptism where He will take the weight of the world’s sins into the depths of the ocean...upon His sinless that we don’t drown in our sin of selfishness and self-centeredness that separates us from God and others.

Beautiful people of God, Jesus uses this opportunity to teach the 12 saying: “Listen, you are not to be thinking like the power brokers of this world. Yes, for the pagan Gentiles ‘power,’ ‘control,’ and ‘dominance’ are the watchwords. BUT IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU. BUT WHOEVER WOULD BE GREAT AMONG YOU MUST BE YOUR SERVANT, AND WHOEVER WOULD BE FIRST AMONG YOU MUST BE SLAVE OF ALL”.

Here Jesus identifies the purpose of life. Those who are saved through His death and resurrection are called to serve with love. The surface reasons so many people do not want to follow Christ vary. However, so often people reject Christ like the religious leaders of His day—in favor of power. They want to rule over people. They want things done their way. Selfishness is their creed. Control is their deed.

Remember, Jesus had just told the disciples He was going up to Jerusalem, be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and be condemned to death. While Jesus is talking about giving Himself up for others—the ten are wrangling with the two brothers—about power, fame, and wealth. PAUSE.

The disciples had forgotten one of the most profound stories of love, sacrifice, and selflessness in the Bible. Remember how Israel’s sons were sent to Egypt to buy grain because of a famine, only to come face to face with their brother Joseph who they had sold into slavery for 20 pieces of silver who was now the right hand man of Pharaoh? They thought he was dead. But by God’s grace Joseph went through struggles, from Potiphar’s house, to prison, only to end up in a place where he could save His family.

With his brothers at his mercy, Joseph devises a bit of a scheme to see where their hearts are. He set up the youngest brother Benjamin. They planted evidence on him in the form of a royal chalice. When it is discovered that Benjamin would be arrested and detained, Judah selflessly volunteers to take his brother’s place for the sake of his father. They had seen the effects of supposedly losing Joseph on their father. Judah could not allow that kind of grief that comes from separation to come to his father again. So breaking ranks with his brothers, Judah confesses their earlier deceit as he pleads with this supposed foreign leader for the sake of his now elderly father. Judah’s contrite, selfless and impassioned plea breaks Joseph’s cover and the brothers are reunited! It is shown how God overcame their evil intent for the sake of good!

Judah whose name is, “Praise the Lord” was willing to become a slave for the sake of his brother. To save Benjamin, which means “Son of my right hand,” Judah would give up everything. Compare that with what the 12 were bickering about! The Disciples were bickering about a position of power all the while that Jesus was talking about the posture of a slave! Add to that what we hear in Philippians 2 about having the mind of Christ and enduring suffering and death for others and we see just how ridiculous the 12 look and sound!

Judah was not able to pull off the exchange that he proposed. But One of His descendants did. In fact, that descendant is the One lecturing the Disciples on what it means to be great in the Kingdom of God!

For us, out of SELFLESSNESS, Jesus became history’s greatest SLAVE. No slave in history was ever treated more terribly than our Lord. No slave in history was ever subject to more pain than Jesus our Lord. No slave in history ever endured the shameful treatment that Jesus endured in order to free us—yes US, from a life of selfishness and self-centeredness to engage in a life of Good Friday selflessness.

To be sure, daily the Holy Spirit calls us in humility to exercise the gift of repentance. The kindness of the King on the cross alone can give us power to put to death those impulses to rule over others. A little Stalin, a little Hitler, a little Mao, a little ISIS drone, dwells in every one of our hearts. Daily, on our trip back to baptism’s font, we need to crucify the little dictator within, so that sin does not cause us to get drunk on power. Only the pardoning love of Christ who became a SLAVE for us can cast out the universal sin to want to rule over others with pomp, power, and pride.

Beautiful people of God, a planted chalice in a sack on the back of the donkey of Benjamin—son of my right hand, moved Judah to become willing to be a slave to save his brother. Jesus, the perfect Son of God’s right hand—drank from the Chalice the cup of wrath for our selfishness on the cross. Today in that amazing way of selflessness the greatest SLAVE, gives to us in His chalice, His body and blood to enrich our love. To serve with love out of love for Him who served up His life for us—is the essence of a life worth living. We have been saved to serve!

In this way, called by grace through faith, we are slaves of Christ. We serve at His direction and in His pattern. But we are not ordinary slaves. No, we are God’s workmanship, created by God to do good works! This slavery is not a position of power, but a position of service. This service is not done to justify us. No, it is rendered to glorify the very One who has given everything and more for our sake!

To sit at the right and left of Jesus is not an honor reserved for us. No, those spots are taken. But our greatest honor is not to be recognized for all that we do for Jesus, but to selflessly and confidently share Him with others. Amen

Now the peace…


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