Sept. 23, 2018 “Who is the Greatest?”
September 23, 2018

Sept. 23, 2018 “Who is the Greatest?”

Passage: Mark 9:30-37

Sermon for Sept. 23, 2018

PRAYER OF THE DAY
Lord God, you call us to work in your kingdom and leave no one standing idle. Help us to order our lives by your wisdom and to serve you in willing obedience; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

VERSE OF THE DAY
Alleluia. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Alleluia. (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

First Lesson
Jeremiah 11:18-20
18The Lord revealed their plot to me so I became aware of it. He showed me what they were doing. 19I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I had not realized that they had plotted against me. They were saying:
“Let us destroy the tree along with its fruit.
Let us cut him off from the land of the living,
so that his name will no longer be remembered.”
20But, Lord of Armies, you judge righteously.
You test the heart and mind.
Let me see your vengeance on them,
for I have presented my case to you.

Second Lesson
James 3:13–18
13Who among you is wise and intelligent? Let him by his good way of living show that he does things in wise humility. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not boast and lie, contrary to the truth. 15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but it is worldly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16In fact, where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and every bad practice. 17But the wisdom that comes from above is first pure, then also peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who practice peace.

Gospel
Mark 9:30–37
30They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know this, 31because he was teaching his disciples. He told them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him. But three days after he is killed, he will rise.”
32But they did not understand the statement and were afraid to ask him about it.
33They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they remained silent, because on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35Jesus sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he will be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and placed him in their midst. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes not just me but also him who sent me.”

Mark 9:30–37

When is it sinful to be the best or the greatest? My dad was a good student, the valedictorian of his 8th grade class at St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Arlington Heights, IL. He was awarded a $10 scholarship by the Ladies Aid to attend Concordia College to be a Lutheran Teacher. My grandpa did not want my dad to pass up this $10 scholarship, so he said, “You’re going to that school.” My dad was the only child of his family to go to such a higher education. Valedictorians—they are the best students. When is it sinful to be first or the greatest?

Because we see the apostles are on their way to Capernaum with Jesus and as they are walking along, they are having their own little debate about who of them is the greatest. They thought they were hiding this shameful wrangling from Jesus. But Jesus knows what they are doing and firmly corrects them. Why is it sinful for them to seek to be first and the greatest?

God knows if our hearts are filled with sinful selfish ambition and bitter envy. Our sinful nature loves to be first and the greatest in the eyes of others and therefore to to be served. Such greedy seeking of prideful self exaltation is not loving our neighbor as ourself. James explains: 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not boast and lie, contrary to the truth. 15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but it is worldly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16In fact, where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and every bad practice. Our sinning in such fighting to be first and greatest in greedy ambition falls under the 5th commandment in that we do not want to help our neighbor in their bodily need but want all to increase our bodily wants and to be served by others with glory and praise. When we tear others down in our conversations with others, we are also seeking to supplant others so we can be…first and great.

Our conscience is stricken by our sinful ambitions to be first and great. This leads us to be silent in our shame over our own sin. The disciples went suddenly quiet when Jesus asked them: “What were you arguing about on the way?” (It goes on to say…). 34But they remained silent, because on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. Know how much God hates our sin and promises to punishes sin with his wrath. God knows us too as we read Jeremiah about God as it says: 20But, Lord of Armies, you judge righteously. You test the heart and mind. Join the apostles in silent shame and most of all, I urge you to be sorry for your sins—to be repentant to your God.

…..Who is first and the greatest anyway? Is not the greatest of all the very incarnate Son of God—Jesus, the Christ? He is the first as he is the eternal Son of God and then in time becomes man born of Mary. Jesus and his work to save us all world is the central teaching of the Bible. Like a humble student who is valedictorian, there is no sin in being the first and greatest. Jesus is first and greatest for he is God and perfect man.

Jesus, God and man, first and greatest, holy and almighty, made himself the last of us all. Jesus lowered himself to be the servant of all to save us all. Jesus service and lowliness has its culmination at the cross. Jesus is now in our text, preparing the disciples for the great work of the cross and thus teaches them: 30They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know this, 31because he was teaching his disciples. He told them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him. But three days after he is killed, he will rise.” The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace becomes the lowest man, the most rejected of men, as he takes all the sin of the world on himself. God rages his full judgment for all sins upon the man on the wooden beams. Pouring from he who is now last and the suffering servant of all, is the holy righteous blood. Jesus is the least and servant of all as God says through Isaiah: My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.

Jesus became last and the ultimate servant of the world but Jesus is thus now first and the greatest as we read in Philippians 2: Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Now it says of the disciples: 32But they did not understand the statement and were afraid to ask him about it. The mystery of the cross and atonement is not natural to our own reason. By God’s grace we know and believe that Jesus is crucified and arisen on the third day for our salvation. You know and understand and believe the Gospel! Thanks be to God!

Because you know and believe what God has done for you in the Savior through his cross and resurrection, do you not want to live your life for Jesus? Yes, your new man, your spirit seeks to do his will. See what Jesus does next: 35Jesus sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he will be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and placed him in their midst. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes not just me but also him who sent me.”

The great illustration given to us is Jesus calling over to his arms a little child, possibly a relative of his living in Capernaum in his house along with Mary and other family. Little ones are often your own children and grandchildren and the children in our congregation and among our neighbors. That is why you care for the weak who are like little one who need your service and lowly humble love as you care for an elderly or infirm child of God, as you take interest in the life of someone who is lonely or struggling or hurting. James speaks of such true good fruit of faith, true good works that flow from a saved and forgiven child of God: 13Who among you is wise and intelligent? Let him by his good way of living show that he does things in wise humility….7But the wisdom that comes from above is first pure, then also peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who practice peace. From your lowly service you become the face of Christ to others and they can come to see that Jesus’ cross and resurrection are for them too. 37“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me, welcomes not just me but also him who sent me.”

Whether you are a a valedictorian or dead last in your class, you have gone from being the least, the greatest sinner to be raised you up to the highest heights of the kingdom of God through Jesus who is God and first and greatest who lowered himself to the cross and now is risen and first and in greatest glory for you. Now you can live in peace, humbly serving others and in so doing serve your God and Savior. Amen.