The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 23 September 2018
A Sermon on Mark 9:30-37 by Pastor Bob Kuppler
Mark 9:30-37 English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. 33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 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.” 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.”
The National Weather Service reported that the three days of rain from HF was a “1000-year event.” Over 50 inches poured down, dumping about 8 trillion gallons, with massive inland floodwaters still draining through this region. What a terrible 2 weeks it has been, waiting, watching, enduring, and now, the aftermath.
We all have stories to tell; who evacuated? who rode it out? You or family member hurt or injured? Who’s home suffered damage? Who’s without power? Food? If you need help right now please stand, so we can see you and reach out to you after the service.
It was only about 8 weeks ago that the basis for the message was Mark’s Gospel (4:35-41) about Jesus calming the storm. In the midst of a furious storm Jesus was sleeping in back of the boat when the frightened fishermen/disciples cried out “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus woke, rebuked the wind and commanded the waves to “Quiet! Be Still.” Wherever you were, did you think about Jesus calming the storm? I did.
This week someone posted a prayer on FaceBook: “God, please keep this hurricane from hitting the East Coast, and keep all hurricanes from all coasts.” Did your prayers go like that? It’s understandable.
Out on the Sea of Galilee crossing to the other side, Jesus heard the desperate, storm-engulfed cries of the disciples. Manifesting His power and authority as God and creator, He calmed the storm, but not their fears. “Why are you so afraid?” the Lord asked. “Do you still have no faith?” Mark tells us that they remained terrified. Can you relate to that? Doubting; afraid; helpless.
Today’s text is a turning point in Mark’s Gospel. The last few weeks we learned all that Jesus did in Galilee, a region inhabited mostly by Gentiles and the center of depravity going back to Jezebel. Though he faced opposition and demons, his fame spread and people responded in faith.
His work in Galilee finished, Jesus now turns toward’s Jerusalem and the brewing storm-clouds of evil that led to his crucifixion and death. He used this time to teach and prepare His disciples; in the remaining 9 weeks before Christ the King Sunday on Nov 25th, are a time of intense teaching and learning for us as well.
v. 30 – So, on the way back from the Mount of Transfiguration, after first casting demons out of boy they possessed, Jesus repeats the prophecy of his passion and resurrection. “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” The disciples didn’t understand these things; they listened in frightened silence.
Death is frightening, isn’t it? We’ve all just come through the very scary experience of a massive storm of destruction and death. What is there to say when facing these threats? We can’t change those things over which we have no control. We can run, but sometimes that doesn’t help, because what we fear still affects us; Helplessness takes over, because we don’t know what to expect or what will be.
Storms, are a part of life; so are accidents and disease, and when they come your way, you’re apt to suffer the consequences. Just because we trust God to watch over us doesn’t mean we’re immune. Life is fraught with all sorts of dangers.
So, where is God in all this? God is with us. What’s important is not that storms arise, but that we respond in faith, trusting God’s sure promises. Then after the storms, and we work together to pick up the pieces. that’s the part that impressive, isn’t it? People opening their hearts and their homes and their pocketbooks to help those who are displaced and distraught.
Money, food, water, clothing, diapers, household furnishings, help of every sort…this is how people of faith respond to a crisis – not by blaming God, but by trusting God to order and provide.
The disciples were frightened at the thought of their Lord’s death, and probably afraid that they might well suffer in the same way.
All of the storms in our lives can be scary, especially when we cannot see the promised resurrection. That’s why Jesus went to the cross, to carry our fears as well as our sins, to deliver us from their eternally fatal outcome.
v. 36 – Though they were confused and silent at Jesus’ prediction of death, on the journey back to Capernaum, the disciples talked about what they knew well – their own greatness.
At the house, Jesus asked them about the arguing among them he heard along the way. “They kept silent” – no doubt due to embarrassment – guilty consciences, maybe?
Questions of rank and status are normal and played an important role in the life of Jewish groups at that time. It’s no different today, is it? Who’s got the best and most toys, the most money, the best education; who’s successful and famous, and who’s not. That’s the way it is and always has been.
Look around as you leave today; disaster and destruction and floods and winds are the great equalizer, affecting rich and poor, healthy and frail alike. My importance, or even my self importance, really matters not at all when faced with uncontrollable storms
In Jesus’ value system, rank and status have no place. So as Jewish rabbi’s do, Jesus sat down and taught them. If you want to be first, you must be the very last, and the servant of all. In fact, the Lord was going to Jerusalem to fulfill this very truth by laying down his life for their sin and brokenness, and that of all others, including you and me.
Taking a little child – who in that culture had at that point no real value or status – the Lord said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me.” Who does God value? Every single person.
When we’re tempted to think of ourselves and compare ourselves to others, our Lord shows us where to look for real and true greatness – to the Master who hangs on the cross. He represents us to the Father in order to redeem us, and He leads us by the cross into a new way of life…
… life that begins at the font, washed clean and marked with the cross of Christ forever, connected by the water and the Word to the death and resurrection of Jesus…life after the storm and death of sin and fear that our Lord overcame – on your behalf and mine.
These past 10 days, I’m sure you’ve seen or heard incredible stories of selflessness and sacrifice. We see people rescuing their neighbors as well as strangers and their animals. We see first responders risking their lives for people they’ve never seen…
We also see looting and other evidence of greed and selfishness. Someone said, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God but the streets declare the sinfulness of man.
We’re people of both dignity and depravity. The hurricane blew back more than roofs; it blew the mask off the nature of humanity “The main problem in the world is not Mother Nature, but human nature.
And when the Florences of life blow in, our true nature is revealed. They bring out the best and the worst in us, but we have a choice: We can look out for Number One, or we can allow the Lord to use us as instruments of his peace and love.
What do our lives look like after the storm? We clean up, and help our neighbor. We repair and rebuild, not just structures, but human dignity and value. We use our time, talent and resources in ways the build up and renew. We welcome those who’s status or worth is questioned.
During and after the 70 year storm of being exiled Babylon, God raised and sent prophets to and for his sinful and suffering people Israel. Nehemiah (2:18) said “I told them the hand of God was good, and they said, “let us rise up and build! So they strengthened their hands for this good work. “
Jesus calls us to rise us and build, and He continues to strengthen us in faith and for serving. Secure in our status as his very own dearly loved ones, He invites us to His Table, for us to come we after the storms, and during storms, and before the storms hit, to take in the Body and Blood of the One who has overcome all the storms, even the finality of death, so that we will be certain that He is here, with us, and certain that we belong to now and in eternity, and so that we will be strengthened to be His Church here, where He, and we, are needed.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.