Mark 9:27-38 TEXT vss. 33b-34 “What were you arguing about on the road?” “But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.”
Have you ever said something to someone under your breath hoping no one around you would hear what you said? But they did! That’s what happened after Jesus’ disciples “came to Capernaum and He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” They had been walking along the road together while Jesus was telling them that “The Son of Man is being handed over to the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when He is killed, on the third day, He will rise again" (Mark 9:31). You’d think that would’ve stopped them dead in their tracks when they heard that! But it didn’t! They just kept on walking and talking. Just as if Jesus had said something like, “Looks like it’s going to rain”. It causes you to wonder! Jesus was prophesying about His own crucifixion, resurrection, and death and the disciples should have stopped right there and asked for an explanation. “Wait a minute, Lord! What are you talking about?” They hadn’t paid any attention to what He was telling them. Why? Because they were too wrapped up in their own sense of self-importance arguing which one of them was going to be greatest in the kingdom Jesus had told them about.
And when Jesus asked, "What were you arguing about?" Scripture tells us “They kept quiet". They were ashamed. They were embarrassed. Jesus had caught them competing for what they thought would be a prestigious position in His kingdom. They had been so absorbed in their own self-importance they completely missed what would become the most significant moment in history, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead! It seems the world has always emphasized the importance of putting yourself first and others last. Here, Jesus' disciples were arguing about who among them was going to be the greatest. The most loved. The most important. While Jesus was talking about His death! There’s a similar story that James and John, with a little help from their mother, went to the Lord and asked, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory”. Remember that? It’s in Mark 10:35-45. “James and John, the sons of Zebedee went to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “He asked, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’” They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory”. When the other disciples heard that they became angry! Not the request. They were angry because James and John had beat them to it. They were indignant James and John thought of it before they did. Every one of them wanted to be the greatest and become Jesus’ right-hand man!
So, Jesus had to call the twelve disciples together and make it plain to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all”. (vs. 35) That was His simple response to the age-old disruption of how “pride” can destroy. A pastor allowed a board member to boast about his personal self-importance. He would strut among the congregation, even church visitors, showing he thought he was “it”! The pastor hoped to patiently work towards a more harmonious relationship with the man. He should have been firm and confronted him with the situation, but eventually, the church split. And Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall”.
And God assigns status that’s opposite to the way of the world. If you want to be first, you must be last! If you want to be on top, you must be on the bottom! It’s the servant of all who is most admired by God. It means you must be willing to attend to the needs of others, before yourself. Others come first! The word “serve” occurs 58 times in the New Testament, while the word“ servant” occurs 57. Jesus said, “you must be last of all and servant of all”.
One of the greatest things about God’s kingdom is the kingdom of God is not something you can point to and say, "Here it is", or "There it is". It’s found where God rules human hearts. It’s a kingdom wherever His Will is done. It’s a kingdom that’s alive in the life of every believer. It’s shown through the church. This church. Mary Slade, a minister's wife, teacher, and poet wrote a song, “The Kingdom Is Coming”. Perhaps you have heard the Gaithers sing it? I love to hear them sing The Kingdom is Coming! It tells about the literal kingdom that will be established on Earth when Jesus Christ returns. We said it in our prayer this morning; “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He told them, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come’”.
The Bible says the Kingdom of God will be come on this Earth! John prophesied in Revelation 11:15 that Christ's Kingdom will take over the kingdoms of this earth. And the arrival of God’s kingdom is linked to the arrival of King Jesus Himself. Revelation 21:2-3 says, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven…. Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God”. Revelation prophesied the new Jerusalem will come down out of heaven. And when Jesus comes, His kingdom will be right here among us. And will last forever! One of the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament is about the Kingdom of God. Old Testament teachings make the relationship between God and humanity as belief in the Kingship of God. The Old Testament refers to God as, “the Judge of all". That all human beings will eventually "be judged". The Nicene Creed, which we repeated this morning confirms judgment is assigned to Jesus. “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
Scripture makes it clear, however, God's kingdom is not here yet. But meanwhile, the Good News is that forgiveness of sin is available to all through His Name. And is to be proclaimed to all the nations. And that the mission of the Church has begun and will conclude with the Final Judgment.
Dr. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian physician, was imprisoned in three different death camps of Hitler’s in World War II. He, and his fellow Jewish people, suffered unbelievable atrocities. Everything about their living and working conditions were deplorable. Including their medical care. Dr. Frankl offered what little medical help he could to the sick and dying. He helped numerous patients avoid the Nazi death program that killed the mentally disabled. Over time, he discovered a unique phenomenon which he recorded in his 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning. He psychotherapeutic method involved identifying a purpose in life and feeling positive about it. And then pouring yourself into it picturing the outcome. He said those people who kept their strength and sanity the longest, were those who tried to help other prisoners and shared what little they had. Their physical and mental condition seemed strengthened by their friendliness and their compassion when they focused on something other than themselves.
Helping someone energizes. That’s the opposite of fearing that if you help someone your own resources will be depleted. If you help others, Allan Luks, author of The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others said, after helping someone, you experience a high, like that of a runner following a workout. Your body releases endorphins, which are the “feel good” brain chemicals that reduce pain and create a rush of euphoria followed by a period of calm. He found that someone who is a helper can even re-experience this high just by remembering their helpful acts. Even a long time after they take place. Choosing to help others can flip your life upside-down. When you help others, rather than seeking your own gain, you find great freedom, because you are able to say “no” to modern goals of promotion and authority. You live a life of less stress, less anxiety, and less frustration. You begin to feel more fulfilled. More complete. More alive. Living for others lifts a great weight off your shoulders when you no longer seek power and mastery over others. Because real joy is found not in being served, but in choosing to serve.
And this is not as hard to come by as you might think. That’s the way it is with all yhe volunteers in our church who help distribute food every Wednesday to over 130 families in our community. They really feel good about it when it’s over! And helping others can improve your spiritual health. It can provide you with a sense of direction and bring a purpose to your life. When you feel like you are part of something that’s greater than yourself, and you see what happens when you touch other lives, it can make you feel less alone. It can give your life meaning. Yes, Jesus was on to something when He overhead those disciples talking among themselves about themselves, and told them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all”.
It’s still true today. People who need help are all around you. The first, and most important step then, is to notice them. Then jump in and help as best you can. Don’t use the excuse, “I don‘t know what to do!” or “Can I help tomorrow?” Offer some help right away! Then, follow through. Service to others always costs something. Sometimes money. Sometimes time. And almost always, energy. Remove the what’s-in-it-for-me question so many people ask today. Help with no expectation of repayment. And you know what? You will be repaid with joy. And you wull receive fulfillment in numerous other ways.
So, how about it? Are you helping others? If not, why not? It will help you if you do. And it will help others if you do. It’s a win, win, situation. Remember, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all”. AMEN