Do You Need To Win

Do You Need To Win: Mark 9:33-37
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday September 27, 2020

The passage we’re about to explore, had the power to stop every church split that has ever existed. Every christian marriage which has ever been under strain, and every disagreement among Christians which has ever been.

But the Church didn’t embrace it – they didn’t own it’s tenants.

And as such, you personally owning this posturing may not stop a split, fix a marriage or disagreement, be cause the person on the other side of the issue may now own the tenants; but you’ll be in God’s will. Is that enough?

Or do you need to win, need to be right, or need to prevail?

That question, “do you need to win” is one you need to lean into and by the end of this we’ll see that the pinnacle of human greatness, is an orientation of service towards one another in the faith.

Mark 9:33–37 (ESV)
Who Is the Greatest?
33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?”

Mark has them on the move. If you flip back, however, to 8:27 – Capernaum was the destination. This was the beginning point of Jesus Galilean ministry as we see in Mark 1:21. However, you’ll remember in Jesus ministry at this point the public portion was over, Jesus life would soon end, and now he is specifically teaching, training, and preparing the 12 to take over His church and is ushering in the age we live in now, the church age.

Mark 8:27 (ESV)
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”

Mark 1:21 (ESV)
Jesus Heals a Man with an Unclean Spirit
21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.

And so, from verse 33-50, we’ll see Jesus “in the house”, giving private instruction.

34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.

This is a very important moment in their ministry. Their conversation was idle time, they were just walking, going about their day. Perhaps there was even a joking tone to their conversation – we’ll never know. But we see in part b of verse 34 that they were “arguing about who was the greatest”. Culturally in their day this would be normal. However, Jesus wasn’t looking for them to blend in and be normal; nor was he looking for them to stand out and be differently, expressly to do so, rather he was looking for them to do what he did – which is conform into God’s image, not the world around them. And in a moment, they knew it. Because what did they say, “they kept silent”.

A question they’d need to internalize in this time, “in the house” and in the coming days is how deeply are we impacted by Jesus’ ministry, by God’s glory, and how obsessed with His kingdom are we over this earthly kingdom?

The 12 had on various occasions seen Jesus leverage specific individuals for key tasks and in key moments. In Mark 5:37 and again 9:2 maybe he identified 3 from the 12. Or, perhaps in Matthew 17:24-27 he’d identified Peter as the one who’d pay the tax from the fish’s mouth – that’s a call out for a guy who often speaks both first and for the group.

Mark 5:37 (ESV)
37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.

Mark 9:2 (ESV)
The Transfiguration
2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,

Matthew 17:24-27 (ESV)
The Temple Tax
24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?”
25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?”
26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.
27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Jesus is keying in on this argument; maybe it’s light hearted and fun for now, but there is a lesson to be learned here about God’s kingdom, and before he goes and leaves the Kingdom on earth to this group (indwelled by the Holy Spirit) this is among the lessons he’ll teach:

35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

The way there phrasing this asks, of the 12 of us who is the greatest, perhaps they think, I mean here we are walking with Jesus the Messiah so we’re pretty great – but who is greatest. This is what occupies their minds – Jesus, on the other hand is thinking about his need to keep teaching these 12, to continue coming closer and closer to his eventual end and so they sit and talk.

To be first he must be both last and servant of all. Not just last, not just servant, but last and servant. This word for servant, the same one we get deacon from but the same that Jesus uses so often:

A mother brings the sons of Zebedee to Jesus and asks can one, in your kingdom, sit at your right and the other at your left. Jesus corrects her misunderstanding and his disciples are angry with her, here is what Jesus says to them:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.

26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,

27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,

28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.””

Jesus informs them what the Kingdom of God will be like, it’s not a place of seeking position, rather it’s comfortable under the authority of God. It doesn’t jockey or position politically for power it’s comfortable existing to serve.

Jesus corrects their understanding of greatness – greatness isn’t that the people around you have exalted you as leader and best rather greatness in God’s kingdom is through the service to others; Jesus is demonstrating to His disciples that Kingdom vision is different than earthly vision. Greatness looks different, success looks different. Remember greatness in God’s kingdom doesn’t jockey or position politically and desire for power it is comfortable existing to serve.

Are we? Or do we “need to win”? Imagine if we took seriously this statement: “[…] it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,

27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,”

Maybe they looked back confused at Jesus? Maybe he could sense that they weren’t getting this, and so…

36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them,
37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Children are cute and we love them, but they don’t’ have any real power, do they? You have one, they say I don’t like things with flavor and so they want you to go to the restaurant that serves the equivalent of boiled chicken – you don’t because they’re powerless. This is the kind of example Jesus chooses.

This is a culture of people; who’d not even teach children rabbinically until 12 or so years of age, not worth the time – however Jesus said receive people like this; receive the poor and powerless. Receive people on their individual merit as people, not because they can do something for you or help you in some way, but because.… if we remember that the pinnacle of human greatness is an orientation of service towards one another in the faith we’ll stop looking at one another as means for gain (status, etc.) and start seeing people as members of God’s own kingdom the God who we worship and serve.

Maybe we say oh Disciples you guys don’t get it – but maybe just maybe, there is some power seeking in us. Maybe, just maybe there is a lack of knowing the pinnacle of human greatness is an orientation of service towards one another in the faith. We probably don’t/wont recognize it – it’s hard to see – maybe not as apparent as it was on these guys.

But maybe it’s in you.

Be encouraged by this Jesus didn’t say you know what guys, you don’t get it and I’m out good luck. He sticks with them, like he sticks by you. Understand this:

John 10:28 (ESV)
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Matthew 1:21 (ESV)
21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

If you’re in Christ a child of God, you’re secure in Jesus saving ability – trust the Spirit to guide you. Pray asking for Him to expose to you pride and status seeking – for the sake of God’s own kingdom seek to squash that in your life.

If the visible church gathered is part of God’s own plan for His glory, and we through pride can tarnish that we should seek to kill its roots in us – do you need to win? Or is Jesus’ victory over sin and death enough to calm you?

Let me leave you with a great Biblical definition of the orientation of the Christian heart – and we need to hear this, own this and understand this:

Romans 12:9-21

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Go and be Christians this week who’ve already won, in Christ! The more we as believers adopt this very God centered vision on our existence, the more we become Childlike, the more we let our love be genuine – the more God is glorified, the stronger His church grows, and the more we see His character in action – that’s the Kingdom of God at work in and through, us – the pinnacle of human greatness is an orientation of service towards one another in the faith.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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