Jesus busts his disciples doing one of the things his followers do best...arguing with one another. They were arguing about which one was the greatest. In this message, we dig into Mark 9:33-37. Part 1 of a series called Peace with One Another.
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*This is not a word for word transcript, but the manuscript for the sermon
PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER
PART ONE: HOW TO BE FIRST
What does it mean to be great in our world? Some define it as who can put a ball through a hoop. Others would say it is someone who drive a car fast and make left turns the best. Another group would point to a quarterback who lead his team by tossing a ball all over the field. Problem is that greatness in any arena is only short lived. Eventually someone can put a ball through a hoop better than you. You do really good driving fast and turning left, until one day you turn right instead. A quarterback can toss a ball all over the field, but he must put a little less air in them to keep up with the younger ones.
I know this series is called “Peace with another” and you are wondering what does greatest have to do with this title? That is our question for today as we look at this passage in Mark chapter 9. The Twelve are in a dispute about who is the greatest, and as we will read Jesus turns the natural way of thinking upside down.
33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had been arguing about who was the greatest. 35 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.” 36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me. (NIV)
This is the Word of God, for the people of God, thanks be to God.
Remember as we study this passage, we are trying to answer the question, “what does greatness have to do with peace with one another?” Peace with one another is something we all need to be seeking in our turbulent times. Let us dig in to find our answer.
Verses 33-34 They came to Capernaum. 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. There is a verse that says, “Where two or three are gathered together in His name, there is most certainly a disagreement of some sort.” Well, I believe the verse goes something like that. Anyway, Jesus overhears the disciples arguing amongst one another.
Not only does Jesus overhear their bickering, He calls them on the contents of the disagreement. He knows these guys were arguing about who was the most important among them. Remember, immediately before this moment, Peter, James, and John had been picked to follow Jesus to the mountain to witness His transfiguration. While they were up the mountain, the other disciples tried to cast out and a demon but failed. This is only speculation; however, it is not heard to imagine a disagreement arising from those situations.
The Twelve do not respond at all to Jesus’ question. It is not because they did not hear Him, they most certainly did. They are choosing to remain silent, because the Twelve know there is disagreement was foolish. Being called out on such silliness left them feeling embarrassed, choosing to be quiet to prevent any further humiliation.
Verses 35 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.” Notice what Jesus does before instructing the Twelve on this matter. He sits down, almost like, “C’mon, fellas, pop a squat, we are going to be here for a minute.”
The disciples were viewing greatness through the natural human perspective. It is the same way you and I look at achieving greatness. “Survival of the fittest.” This belief is that to be the greatest means you are the most powerful, having the most resources, most notable, or any other way you can be considered at the top of the list.
While this is how the kingdoms of this world operate, it is not how the Kingdom of the Messiah does things. Greatness is not measured by the methods of violence or unethical practices. To be great in the eyes of God is not lording over others but dignifying the humanity of others and being humble enough to serve them.
Verses 36-37 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” At first glance, we believe that Jesus is teaching on children in these verses. While they certainly apply to kids and Jesus does seem to have a special place for them, He takes this child to illustrate His point in verse 35.
In our modern setting, we lose sight of this illustration because we are reading it with our understanding of how children are to be treated. We understand children as innocent, passionate, and truthful. That is not how they were viewed in the historical setting of this passage. Children were invisible, non-persons. They certainly had no place at the feet of a rabbi, participating in the instruction. Kids had mothers for that purpose.
Jesus placing the child among them was a scandalous act. He took someone who society considered invisible, unimportant and said to welcome them. To be the greatest in the Kingdom of God is to have a heart willing to serve those invisible, considered a waste of time by the world.
By the natural human standard, achieving greatness is to obtain a crown of power, scale to the highest ranks, and grab the brightest starts. There is not time to be humble and serve the weaker ones, let alone the invisible. “It is survival of the fittest,” so if you take time away from making yourself better that leaves the potential for you to be at the bottom. One misstep away from disappearing.
Our natural way to navigate this world is by the fallen condition mentioned above. This means our focus is on “I have to defend my rights.” If I do not defend my rights, then someone will come take it away. “I have to speak loud enough to make sure I am heard.” If we do not shout loud enough, then no one will know our ideas are important. Deep down we are chasing a need to be validated in our accomplishments and feel valued in our existence. Others are used to pursue those needs, or the as our competition for them.
The problem with the way of the world and our way is that is not God’s way. God did not design us to exist in this manner. Since this is not how we are designed, that means peace is not possible in our own hearts by following it. Nor is peace with one another.
The way of Jesus is reckless love that demonstrates peace to others. God already loves you, there is nothing you or I could do to make Him love us any more or less. His love reveals our value as children of God, which means our Father always hears us. And He is proud of us because we are His. Those basic needs of being valued and validated are met by God himself, removing our need to use or compete with others. Since those needs are more than met, we become free to love recklessly as Jesus loves. Holy love is the way to peace with one another.
What does greatness have to do with peace with one another? I need to be last for peace to have a chance. I do not have to have credit to be important. My ideas do not have to be liked, approved, and followed to find validation. The things I accomplish do not need to be praised for me to feel valued. God so loved me that He died for me. The very least I can do for Him is use my life to serve you.
Can you say those things? To have peace with one another, you must have peace in your own heart. To have peace in our own heart, is to quit seeking greatness the natural way, using and competing with others to find validation and value. This morning know God loves you, values you, and is proud to call you His child. Is His love enough for you?
Season 1 Episode 33, "Most important question." The text for the message is from Mark 8:27-30, part 1 of a series called The Son of Man. The question we are trying to answer is "What is the most important question?"