SCRIPTURES - Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45
Mark tells us, “They (the Twelve) were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.” Why were Christ’s twelve apostles amazed – shaking their heads in shock and confusion – and His other followers afraid?
Well, shortly before this Jesus had had a couple of good opportunities to make inroads with the Pharisees, the very pious and devout teachers of the people, as well as with the Sanhedrin, the leadership Council of Israel. These important leaders in Israel had been suspicious of Him and distrusted Him. But then some Pharisees came and asked Him a question about divorce, an issue on which they disagreed among themselves. Here was an opportunity to show Himself helpful to them as a teacher of the Scriptures. But, He not only answered them; He insulted them as He did so by calling all of them hard-hearted. Then, when a rich young member of the Sanhedrin came and bowed before Him and acknowledged Him to be a good teacher, Jesus rejected his kind words and laid the impossible demand upon him that he had to give all that he had to the poor before he could become a disciple. The man went away. The Twelve were amazed. These people could have been so helpful in getting the leaders of the Jews to accept and welcome Jesus as the Messiah, and He didn’t seem to care! They were especially amazed when He told them that He would be rejected and killed when He went to Jerusalem. Why, then, was He determined to go there? What kind of kingdom, of Church, was He building?
Being a follower of Jesus is still an amazing – and fearful! – thing. His kingdom, His Church, is an amazing and fearful organization. What He expects of His followers is so contrary! For, you see, in Christ’s Church position and status are not to be sought for their importance.
That’s not to say that there are no positions of importance in Christ’s Church. Jesus didn’t come to create a new people of God with no positions of authority among them. He chose twelve Apostles and gave them His authority. His Church today chooses men as pastors and gives them Christ’s keys, His authority over sin, death and hell. In our Church there are pastors and laypeople. There is the Synod President and District Presidents. There are Synodical and District officials. In congregations there are elected officers and other leaders. We are to respect and support all such people in their service.
Christ came to change our hearts, not our organizations. We’re not to think in terms of status, or even of equality, as if in the Church we are all equal. Jesus doesn’t speak of equality, but of servanthood: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” You are to consider yourself, not equal to, but below everyone else! And then you are to serve, for that is what Jesus did. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
This is not an easy thing, to take the lowest place and serve. It is especially difficult to serve as Christ served. He didn’t worry about His reputation as He served. Jesus helped and served many people who were looked down upon by His fellow Jews, people such as:
Matthew, the hated and despised tax collector, whom He even called to be a leader among His followers!
Jesus knew that helping and serving despised and lowly people would hurt His reputation. When it did, He often didn’t even explain or defend Himself! But, Jesus was not concerned with receiving praise from people, for He had His heavenly Father’s praise.
He is your example as you serve, both in His Church and outside of His Church. For, it is not just our fellow believers whom we are to consider ourselves below and to serve. Jesus served all people, whether they were followers of His or not. He gave His life as a ransom for many; for the world!
And, what is truly amazing is that Jesus faithfully continues to serve us, even though our focus is so often on ourselves and our desires and we disappoint Him. How incredibly disappointing, even frustrating, it must have been when, after taking His twelve chosen and closest followers aside and telling them that He would be rejected and killed in Jerusalem – and then after three days rise! – He had to listen to James and John ask to be given the positions of the greatest honor in His kingdom. They not only totally and completely ignored His point that He wasn’t going to be hailed as Israel’s Messiah and made their king when He arrived in Jerusalem; their focus was upon themselves, upon what they would get for following Him, and not upon Him!
Imagine your spouse coming to you, teary-eyed, to pour out the burdens and worries of dealing with sick and failing parents, and you interrupting with, “Hey, I’m sorry, but I’m hungry. What’s for dinner?”
And, Jesus didn’t only have to deal with James and John. When the rest of the Twelve found out about their request, He had to deal with their anger and the argument that ensued. They were all so focused upon themselves! How sad. Are we any different? We argue in church about what we can do. We get upset when our service isn’t sufficiently appreciated and we stop serving, sometimes even stop coming. We stop supporting others in their service.
And Jesus: He keeps on serving us. He gave His life for us upon the cross to ransom us from our sins! He remains our High Priest forever, and so remains the source of eternal salvation for us. Jesus continues to serve us unworthy sinners with His forgiveness. He continues to receive us, to wipe away all of our sins and guilt, to look upon us with love, and to teach us and send us forth as His servants. “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more,” God promises us in Jer. 31, and this is what He does for us in His Son. In Christ we have God the Father’s praise! How He exalts us in Him! But, this exaltation is given as we humble ourselves and confess our sins to Him. Jesus is the Savior of sinners, the great Lord who receives sinners and builds His kingdom with them.
Be a humble sinner, then, and nothing other. Let the Lord also make of you a humble servant, like Jesus. As He builds His kingdom, His Church, you will forever be an important member of it. He will do amazing things with you and through you!