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The Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Series B

Option #1: "To Be Great in God's Kingdom"
Mark 9:30-37
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, B.D., M.Div.

1) The "greatest" argument must end.

Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament:

They had been disputing (verse 34) not about the coming death of the Master but about the relative rank of each of them in the political kingdom which they were expecting him to establish. Jesus had suspected the truth about them and they had apparently kept it up in the house.2) You have to be in last place--Lk 22:24-30; Matt 18:2-4, Text: vv36-37

Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament:

Mark 9:35: He sat down and called the twelve (kathisas epho˘ne˘sen tous do˘deka). Deliberate action of Jesus to handle this delicate situation. Jesus gives them the rule of greatness: "If any man would be first (pro˘tos), he shall be last (eschatos) of all, and minister (diakonos) of all." This saying of Christ, like many others, he repeated at other times (Mark 10:43f; Matthew 23:8ff; Luke 22:24f). Matthew 18:2 says that he called a little child, one there in the house, perhaps Peter’s child. Luke 9:47 notes that he "set him by his side." Then Jesus, taking him in his arms (enagkalisamenos, aorist middle participle, late Greek word from agkale˘ as in Luke 2:28), spoke again to the disciples.

Albert Barnes:

They had supposed that he was to be a temporal prince. They expected he would reign as other kings did. They supposed he would have his great officers of state, as other monarchs had, and they were ambitiously inquiring who should hold the highest offices. Jesus told them that they were wrong in their views and expectations. No such things would take place. From these notions they must be turned, changed or converted, or they could have no part in his kingdom. These ideas did not fit at all the nature of his kingdom.

And become as little children--Children are, to a great extent, destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness. They are characteristically humble and teachable. By requiring his disciples to be like them, he did not intend to express any opinion about the native moral character of children, but simply that in these respects they must become like them. They must lay aside their ambitious views and their pride, and be willing to occupy their proper station--a very lowly one. Mark 9:35 says that Jesus, before he placed the little child in the midst of them, told them that "if any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all." That is, he shall be the most distinguished Christian who is the most humble, and who is willing to be esteemed least and last of all. 

3) You are to follow Christ’s example of service--text, v31b, Mark 10:35-45

The Believers Study Bible: 10:45: This is the key soteriological verse in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus here gives His disciples His own example of selfless service for others. He tells them that His true mission as the Messiah is to "give His life a ransom for many." These words echo the Suffering Servant passage of Isa 52:13-53:12. The word "ransom" (lutron, Greek) means "price of release" and refers to the payment made to free someone in bondage. As our ransom, the death of Jesus frees us from our bondage to sin (cf Rom 6:20-23; Titus 2:14; Heb 2:14, 15; 1 Pet 1:18, 19).

Albert Barnes re: a parallel verse, Mark 10:45: To give his life a ransom for many--the word "ransom" means literally a price paid for the redemption of captives. In war, when prisoners are taken by an enemy, the money demanded for their release is called a ransom; that is, it is the means by which they are set at liberty. So anything that releases anyone from a state of punishment, or suffering, or sin, is called a ransom. People are by nature captives to sin. They are sold under it. They are under condemnation, Eph 2:3; Rom 3:9-20, 23; 1 John 5:19. They are under a curse, Gal 3:10. They are in love with sin. They are under its withering dominion, and are exposed to death eternal, Ezek 18:4; Ps 9:17; 11:6; 68:2; 139:19; Matt 25:46; Rom 2:6-9. They must have perished unless there had been some way by which they could he rescued. This was done by the death of Jesus--by giving his life a ransom. The meaning is that he died in the place of sinners and that God was willing to accept the pains of his death in the place of the eternal suffering of the redeemed. The reasons why such a ransom was necessary are:

1. That God had declared that the sinner shall die; that is, that he would punish, or show his hatred to, all sin.

2. That all people had sinned, and, if justice was to take its regular course, all must perish.

3. That man could make no atonement for his own sins. All that he could do, were he holy, would be only to do his duty, and would make no amends for the past. Repentance and future obedience would not blot away one sin.

4. No man was pure and no angel could make atonement. God was pleased, therefore, to appoint his only-begotten Son to make such a ransom. See John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; 1 Pet 1:18-19; Rev 13:8; John 1:29; Eph 5:2; Heb 8:2-7; Isa 53: this is commonly called the atonement.

For many--see also Matt 26:28; John 10:15; 1 Tim 2:6; 1 John 2:2; 2 Cor 5:14-15; Heb 2:9.

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Visual aid: a crown such as you might find at Burger King or a picture of a crown, two yardsticks

I’ve been thinking about you off and on all week. I was thinking about how much you have listen to older people--your parents, your teachers, your coaches, even big brothers and big sisters.

Well, I want you to know that Jesus says that today it’s your turn! Jesus had a problem with the disciples. They all wanted to be the leader and there really can be only one leader. So they were arguing while walking on the road about which of them was the greatest and who would have a lot of power in the kind of kingdom they thought Jesus was going to have. They thought Jesus was going to a very powerful earthly king and that they would be big shots in His kingdom.

But that’s not the kind of kingdom Jesus came here to bring. His kingdom is one of love and of serving one another in love. Jesus said: "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

They thought it would be just great to be one who does all the talking, the one who bosses other people around, the person that people have to bow down to.

But Jesus said something like this: "There will be serving all right, but you will be doing the serving. You will be on the giving end, not the receiving end." He said elsewhere:

... whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

This is the difference between God’s people and the people who live only to please themselves. An old parable is told about a man who visited both hell & heaven. Hell was a place with the best food you’ve ever seen, but everybody is starving. No one is eating any of that wonderful food. The problem was that there were no forks or spoons, only 3-foot long chop sticks, like these yardsticks. You can’t feed yourself with these.

In heaven the man saw the same long tables, the same great food and the same 3-foot long chop sticks. But in heaven everybody ate as much as they wanted of all their favorite foods. The difference? In hell, people starved because they were interested only in feeding themselves. In Heaven, they were feeding each other!

Jesus said: "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." I pray that you will be a great servant in the life that God has given you to live, just as Jesus was.

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"Descending Into Greatness"
Mark 9:30-37
Rev. Kelly Bedard, B.A., M.Div.

Goal: to gain a new and/or renewed view of biblical greatness
Malady: avoiding pain and death, posturing for posterity, ignoring "the least of these"
Means: God's the Father's gift of children; God the Son becoming a child; God the Spirit making us more childlike
1. diakonos {dee-ak'-on-os}, v35: one who executes the commands of another, especially of a master, a servant, attendant, minister; the servant of a king; a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use; a waiter, one who serves food and drink (Strong's)
2. True greatness is to be like Jesus, a truly powerful person, but who valued himself not because of power but because of his being and his doing the will of God, which meant lowliness, in his case including following the path to the cross... It remains an issue today: real lowly service (both for people who have power and enormous responsibility, and for those who do not) entails vulnerability. (William Loader)
3. We think of successful people as being "on top" and unsuccessful people as being "at the bottom." "Jesus chose another image, the image of 'arounders.' Jesus is in the middle, and true inclusion in Jesus' circle involves positioning oneself 'around Jesus' (3:31-35; 4:10). Those around Jesus do not need to jockey for positions in the inner ring. There is room for everyone in the circle of arounders. Those who refuse the invitation are 'outsiders' (4:11)" (Geddert, 236). (Richard Donovan)
4. Jesus begins, "If anyone is wishing to be first" (present tense = "keeps on wishing," "continually desires"). Jesus doesn't criticize them for this desire, but reinterprets the means to achieve it. Perhaps Christians and congregations should have a desire to be first--but seek to achieve it by Jesus' means, rather than worldly means. (Brian Stoffregen)
5. A young rabbinical student asked the rabbi, "Rabbi, why don't people see God today as they did in the olden days?" The wise old man put his hands on the student's shoulders and said, "The answer, my son, is because no one is willing to stoop so low."
6. We tolerate children only to the extent they promise to become "adults" like us. Adult members sometimes complain that they cannot pay attention to the sermon, they cannot listen to the beautiful music, when fidgety children are beside them in the pews. "Send them away," many adults say. Create "Children's Church" so these distracting children can be removed in order that we adults can pay attention. Interestingly, Jesus put a child in the center of his disciples, "in the midst of them," in order to help them pay attention. The child, in Jesus' mind, was not an annoying distraction. The child was a last-ditch effort by God to help the disciples pay attention to the odd nature of God's kingdom. Few acts of Jesus are more radical, countercultural, than his blessing of children. (Stanley Hauerwas & William Willimon)

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