S-1515 18SAP/3B 9/27/2015 Hymns: (O) #601; (S) #718; LS. #623; #629; #632; (C) #579
Texts: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; James 5:1-20; Mark 9:38-50
Theme: “Stumbling Around” (Mark 9:38-41)
Question: “Have you ever stumbled?” (5th sermon at Trinity)
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is the Gospel reading. “John said to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in My name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” (Mark 9:38-41).
Beautiful people of God, travel with me today to a far country. Kindly close your eyes for a few moments and join me as we walk the streets of Jerusalem on Good Friday. I want you to hear the voices of Christ’s condemnation at the prœtorium “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” Come closer and see the soldier’s whip making their marks on His body. Watch closely as they pull His beard, spit on Him, and beat Him. Look closer and see a soldier forming a crown of thorns and driving it into His head. Behold the blood dripping from His body…then, He is forced to carry His cross to the place of crucifixion. As He walks near where you are standing you see Him stumbling around at the massive weight placed upon Him. It is not the weight of the cross, the pain of the whip, the thorns, the beating and bruising; but the weight of the sin of the whole world including you and me. He is walking, stumbling and falling to the ground on His way to be put to death for your sins and mine. (Please don’t open your eyes yet). See Him humbling Himself for you. See Him carrying the cross for you. See Him stumbling for you, ONLY you. He is not dying for the brother next to you. He is not dying for the sister next to you. He is not dying for the worst criminal, thief, rapist, adulterer, or murderer. HE IS DYING FOR YOU—the sinner. Small pause. (you may open your eyes).
In the text before us today we see the disciples stumbling around in their walk of faith. They have been distracted by the devil. And we, His 21st Century followers, are not much different from the proud twelve in the reading before us. These Galilean’s who have been called by Christ to be His disciples to carry on the Gospel mission to the ends of the earth; think they’ve unearthed a scandal and shame. Someone outside their elite circle has been caught in the act. Doing what you say? Sinning? No! He was acting in Jesus’ name (in this case, casting out demons in the name of the Living God). Terrible! We’re the Twelve! That’s our job. That’s our privilege (verse 38).
The Gospel lives and breathes through His Christian. Yes, the wind and the Spirit blows where IT wills (John 3:8). We stumble due to our sin… oh and how He forgives, heals, moves us, moves you to be His blessing. Maybe your calling is to simply receive the gifts given to you by a Medad or and Eldad. Maybe they are to be Medad or Eldad, Moses was clear: I wish that all would so prophesy!
Isn’t that Ironic how in the previous verses of this chapter these Galilean fishermen-turned followers of Jesus, couldn’t remove an unclean spirit from a boy. Now, Mark, the author of the text, tells us they wanted to forbid someone who is doing the same thing, but successfully. Oh how we need to hear the Word of the Cross and receive the risen Savior for sinners like you and me! PAUSE.
Sin is at work in us, oh how we need to close our eyes and hear the lashings inflicted against our Savior! Without those lashings, and without us remembering and knowing the love that was behind them we will certainly act like the apostles in our Gospel, or the 68 who were in the tent of meeting. How often do we act like the disciples? How often do we act as if we are better than someone else? How often do we say, “It is too bad this brother or this sister wasn’t here to hear this sermon?” We think we have the world figured out and we know where we are heading. The devil takes our eyes from Christ and points them upon us, our works and efforts. And thus we stumble around figuring out what we should or shouldn’t do.
So why does our Savior say these harsh things about foot, hand, and eye surgery? Why does He sound so harsh in His tone with the 12? It is because Beloved… they are His Beloved, even as you and I are. He was going to the cross because we really are that selfish. We really are that blind. He knew that only the broken body and shed blood of the Cross would heal. He was removing all self-righteousness. He was leading them up the way to the Cross. His blood for their blood and your blood. His lashes so that we would not know the lashings nor the lasher who is the devil!
Indeed, every time we enter this holy place, we are acknowledging to one another, that we are sinners in need of God’s grace. Every time we come to the Table, we declare that we need the gift of His body and blood to help us remain strong and steady in the faith. Every time we gather
around the Word, we declare to the world and to us that without Christ, we will continue to stumble around.
Yet in this text the man, whom the Twelve had encountered did something beautiful. He was carrying out the message of God’s goodness and kindness to someone in need. He is indeed a follower of Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit he is doing the works of the kingdom. What on earth are you doing opposing him, Jesus declares? And so Jesus amplifies this positively and negatively. Positively He says that if you act compassionately (giving a cup of water to a disciple
IN MY NAME, verse 41) that will please God. Negatively, He talks about the perilous danger of causing ‘one of these little ones who believe in [Him]’ to stumble (verse 42).
Note that the ‘little ones’ are those who believe in Jesus. Here the Savior is saying this: you’re in danger of causing a believer to stumble, by trying to prevent him from exercising his God-given gifts of ministry. You won’t let him, as it were, ‘give a cup of water’. Now where does this challenge us? What are the ways in which we might risk causing other disciples to stumble? In what ways do we prevent our brothers and sisters in Christ from exercising their calling? PAUSE.
Every one of us here who is part of the body of Christ, has been given a gift[s] by our gracious Father to serve Him and His people. These gifts are not to be stored, or kept, but to be used to further the Kingdom and spread the glorious good news of Christ’s death and resurrection.
The challenge is this: When someone does something we don’t like, do we cut them down? Rather than accepting that God has given them these gifts do we find fault with them? We think we can do it better or sooner; or not do it at all. Many things cause us to stumble and others too: Jealousy, envy, resentment, mistrust and host of other things.
In this text Jesus opens our eyes to remind us that He has stumbled on our behalf. In carrying the cross to Calvary on our behalf He declares, “I have loved you where you are, and through this Cross I will indeed ‘draw all men unto Myself” (John 12:23) so that through My grace you may be where I Am!” This is the meaning of Lexi and Luke’s Baptism and your Baptism and my Baptism. Jesus Christ loves sinners, of which I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15-16). You see, God in our Flesh, Jesus, He doesn’t want you to remain this way, that is, stumbling in your sins and without the sure hope of His gift. It is though He was saying: “I have stumbled so that you don’t have to. I have suffered so you don’t have to. I have endured God’s wrath so you don’t have to. I was crucified, put to death and raised again so that your lives might be redeemed and restored.” Thank God that the Savior of mankind did all of the stumbling for us.
Today, we call upon the Holy Spirit to help us be His gifts of mercy, love and compassion. Today, as we witnessed the miracle of baptism of Luke and Lexi we give thanks that we too, have been baptized. And in that baptism our stumbling has been spoken to by the Name and Promise of our Trinue God, oh yes, and our joy of serving, caring and sharing increases day by day so that all people might receive the GOSPEL of Jesus and live under Him forever and ever. This is the gift of the Cross, of His stumbling up to Golgotha. This is the gift of the Empty Tomb, made vacant today for Luke and Lexi, made vacant for you and me, and all because He stumbled up to that awful Tree. Let us thank Him for His ongoing Mercy. Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA