In the 9th chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we read: “… when he [Jesus] was in the house [at Capernaum] he asked them [the 12], ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they were
silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, ‘If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’ “
So, just what does one get out of being a Christian? Each of us has probably asked that of himself on occasion. Ask it again, right now, if you wish.
What’s the point of being Christian?
What good comes out of anyone’s membership in the church?
I give and give and give and no one seems to care.
I think I’m being taken for granted. - Well, just maybe we are.
Maybe we don’t get the praise and support each of us deserves. Saying thank you is more than a matter of manners. - It’s helpful. It makes us feel good, and willing to do even more. Let’s admit it - Each of us has done his share, and more, and it hasn’t seemed to matter one iota. So then, just what are some alternatives to feeling sorry for ourselves?
We can languish in our sorrow much longer if we wish, but we’ve done that often enough to know that it doesn’t change a thing. The appreciation and recognition still aren’t there.
We can pretend that it doesn’t matter, even though it does. That helps a little, but the help is slight and temporary.
We can give up on the whole thing, withdraw a mile or two from the activity, take a rest, or even quit. Some do, with apparently little regret. Yet, if that’s the decided way to go, we ought to take this advice: Go slowly - Drift away, a little at a time - That way we’ll have time to adjust - The guilt will be easier to ignore - It’s not as honest to drift away, but it’s easier.
There is, however, one more alternative, and it’s got much to offer. You’re not going to like the sound of it any more than I do, but it’s the teaching of Jesus: “You must be last of all and servant of all.”
That’s all well and good, but think about it - None of us wants to be last - None of us likes that word “servant” - Servants don’t get a lot of thank yous - Servants don’t get half what they’re worth - Servants are chosen - Without their own permission, they are chosen - Servants live in the shadow of wealth but seldom sit at the table of wealth - Servants, after all, serve.
And, then, to make the teaching stick, Jesus suddenly had a child in his lap.
“When you spend your precious time with children like these,” Jesus said in effect, “when you teach them about me, love them, because you love me, care for their needs, wipe their runny noses, make them smile and laugh, because you are my servant, don’t expect a thank you from them. When one such child is received in my name, you’ve received me, and that’s enough.”
Most of us would prefer to be an advisor to the president.
Most of us think we have enough talent to make a difference at our jobs, if only the boss would listen.
And Jesus then asked them that embarrassing question. It grew very quiet when he asked, “What were you talking about?”
You can almost feel the flush in their faces, can’t you? Jesus had been talking with them about his coming death and even told them about the resurrection, but they didn’t understand. They were too busy thinking about other things.
After all, this Jesus was something else! Something big was happening around them. That
much they knew. Jesus was different. Crowds were everywhere, and the crowds sensed it, too.
Talk about death was unimportant. Jesus was still young, about thirty, and apparently in good
health. He was coming into power, no doubt about that, and when he did, then what about us?
Can’t you just hear them speculating?
Can’t you just hear them whispering?
Jesus was another David, a king! He’ll need generals and diplomats. Someone will have to be his secretary of state. He’ll need publicity, ambassadors, a whole cabinet, and a vice-president.
And Jesus said, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”
But they couldn’t hear that message; Not because they had wax in their ears, but because they had glory in their eyes!
They were ready to serve the king, and that’s the kind of servants we’d all like to be too, wouldn’t we?
And so he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” “What about it?” he asked. “Do you want to tell me, or should I tell you?”
Now, the man Jesus must have been a little bit worried by now. What would happen
when it occurred? What would these ambitious servants think when they saw their dream die like a criminal on a cross? How would they stay together? Would they stay together? Would they remember then, what he was trying to tell them now? Would they drift away, or quit, or panic and run?
You see, there’s not a single instance in all of Scripture where Jesus says thank you to his disciples. You see, they were his servants, chosen to serve. They were to serve, not for the sake of a thank you, but for the sake of their Lord. Yes, Jesus must have been just a little bit worried. How was this motley crew ever to carry on? What would they do during those three days he was in the grave?
Scripture says, “They were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest.” Okay then, just who is the greatest? Not among them. Among us. - The Captain? Most crews have been together long enough to know that if he/she’s the greatest then God help all of us! - The instructors? - We’re getting closer - The students? - We’re almost there, but not yet.
You see, it wasn’t the child on Jesus’s lap who was so great. No, it was the Christ who was
received through the child.
And he didn’t stop there either. “Receive a child in my name,” said Jesus, “and you receive me.” And then he adds that marvelous promise: “Whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
That, my friends, is who’s the greatest among us, for Christ never pointed at himself, but at his Father. Jesus was a servant too! He was the servant, the chosen, and Scripture doesn’t
record a single thank you from the Father. The closest we get is a “well-done” and a “beloved son.”
So, into what is he making you and me? I don’t yet know the answer to that, but I do know I’ll be all his when he’s done with me what he intends. We’re not sure yet who we are, or what’s happening, or why, but when God‘s done with us, we’ll be all his. We’ll no longer look for the thank yous in life, but we’ll be giving thanks. We’ll worry less about being great while we serve the greatest.
That my friends is the life of a Christian - That’s the life of a servant - and that, my friends, is who we are.