Confessing Christ: Lavishly

The Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, 21 October 2018
A Sermon on Mark 10:35-45 by Samuel Zumwalt, STS

Mark 10:35-45 English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]

35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Confessing Christ: Lavishly

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

He praised her lavishly. The holiday table was laid out lavishly. The owner of the company rewarded employees lavishly. Her private jet was decorated lavishly. In four short sentences, we get the picture. Lavishly means extravagantly, profusely, generously, and luxuriously.

But what does it mean to confess Christ lavishly? Our gospel lesson lays it out clearly.

What Do You Pray For?

James and John said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?”

They wanted power and success. They were like most young people. When you are kid, most of us dream big dreams. “What are you going to be when you grow up?” That’s what teachers and other adults ask us. Some kids know right away. I knew I wanted to be a pastor when I was four. Sometime around sixteen, not so much. By then, I wanted to be a singer/songwriter like James Taylor. At nineteen, I wanted to be a lawyer. I knew who I wanted to marry and how many kids we would have and what their names would be. By twenty, I was already moving towards being a professor and the author of the Great American Novel. When my Dad died the next year, my whole world got turned upside down. I had not a clue where I was going or what I was going to be. Thank God, I had a pastor I could sit down with. He didn’t tell me what to do. He listened.

James and John thought Jesus was going to claim David’s throne in Jerusalem, and they envisioned sharing in His worldly power and glory. They had not been listening. Three times, the Lord Jesus had told them He was going to Jerusalem to be rejected, suffer, be crucified, die, be buried, and then rise on the third day. He said it in Mark 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33-34. They could not hear the Lord Jesus, because their minds were too full of dreams of power and success.

In Clive Cussler’s new book, Shadow Tyrants, nine people in possession of ancient knowledge from India set out to control the world. But, within that group of nine, two men have two very different and incompatible visions. Each wants his vision to shape the world. Each wants to be ruler of the world. James and John wanted something like that for Jesus because of what it would mean for them. But they didn’t understand who Jesus is or how He would establish His everlasting Kingdom. Like the guys in Cussler’s book, they were listening to a different voice.

So, what do you pray for? Do your prayers sound more like James and John? Is your vision of how things should be more like James and John?

It Shall Not Be So Among You

A lot of us watch football this time of year. We have our favorite teams. Where my wife and I come from, the home of Friday Night Lights, football is the real religion of a lot of people. Some of us so identify with our teams, our moods swing with every victory or defeat. The hardest thing of all is to watch our favorite team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It’s crushing.

If your inner compass is not right, if your heart is in the wrong place, if you listen to the wrong voice, if you have the wrong vision, you will build your life on sinking sand. That’s what happens to young men whose whole world was built on success on a playing field, and then it all went away. Now too many are broke, in prison, on drugs, or even dead. Life is more than sports.

Sometime around forty, this alarm goes off in your head. You realize you aren’t young anymore. You realize a lot of dreams haven’t come true. It’s a dangerous time especially if you are married and even more if you have kids. You can wreck not only your life but the lives of those who love you. You can destroy a child’s world, so that the child no longer knows where he or she belongs.

On a smaller scale, but no less devastating to those in your life, you can become like the shadow tyrants in Cussler’s book. Your competing vision, your longing to control can wreck the world!

The Lord Jesus, on His way to be crucified, said: “It shall not be so among you!”

Whoever Would Be First Must Be Slave of All

Albert Einstein supposedly said, “I want to know the mind of God.” If you want to know what’s in God’s mind and in His heart, look at the Crucified Jesus. God is God. We aren’t. He has all the power and the glory in the universe forever, and the richest and most powerful people in this world only have a lot of power and glory for a little while. One day a president has the nuclear football and can destroy the world. The next day he’s a former president, and most can’t shut up.
One day billionaire Paul Allen is 65 years old and has almost anything he wants; the next he is dead! Ashes. Ashes. We all fall down. Sic transit gloria mundi. Thus, passes this world’s glory.

The one true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – makes Himself known in suffering and dying on the cross to save the world. In love for His broken and dying world, He becomes slave of all. He gives His life away to ransom us from our bondage to sin, death, and the old evil one.

James and John couldn’t hear Jesus, because they weren’t listening to His voice. Their inner compass wasn’t right. Their hearts were in the wrong place. They had the wrong vision. But that wasn’t where they ended up. That’s what we need to remember. They were changed, and, yes, ultimately each in his own way was baptized with the Baptism with which Jesus was baptized. James was martyred very young. John lived to very old age but suffered repeatedly and greatly.

If you have not yet been baptized, you are still on the outside looking in. You have not yet been joined to the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection, and so His story is not yet your story. If you are baptized, you may be trying to straddle the line between the world’s story and God’s story. Your old Adam or Eve, the old sinner in you, is going to bug you all your days. Some days will be worse than others. Some seasons of your life will be worse. If you don’t show up for worship here, confess your sins, hear Jesus’ voice, and receive Him in the Blessed Sacrament, you’re going to keep crossing the line. If you do that long enough, you may never make it back home!

God’s story is not: if you give your life away, then you will be mine. God’s story is not: if you look like a slave and act like a slave, then you will be mine. No, that’s not the story. Listen!

God does the work of saving entirely. The Son becomes human in the Virgin Mary’s womb to live the life of total obedience to the Father’s good and gracious will even unto death on a cross. None of us can do that. When we are baptized into the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection, our life is no longer our own. We are not a law unto ourselves. The world’s story is no longer ours. And any vision that competes with God’s is bound for the ash heap of eternity. The Holy Spirit calls us away from sin, death, and the evil one to trust that we are marked with Christ’s cross and sealed as God’s beloved sons and daughters forever! It is God’s way of death and eternal life.

Men and boys, Jesus is the epitome of real Manhood. If you want to see a real Man, look at Jesus who gave His life a ransom for many. He gave His life away lavishly for those He loves, for all! You may not want to worship. You may not want to serve. You may not want to give your life away. But that’s not whom you were created to be. Be a real Man like Jesus. Don’t stay a boy.

Women and girls, Jesus is the epitome of real Manhood. You can see His heart and His mind in the sacrifice of His life for the world. That’s what a real Man looks like. Don’t settle for less.

People of God, confess Christ lavishly – extravagantly, profusely, generously, and luxuriously. That’s what God in Christ has done for you. Don’t hold back. Don’t try to stay in control as if you were ruler of the world. Confess Christ lavishly with time, talent, and treasure! That’s God’s way, not the world’s way. Buried and raised with Christ, you are His forever! Now, act like it!

In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

©The Rev. Dr. Samuel David Zumwalt, STS
St. Matthew’s Ev. Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA

Bulletin Insert
Confessing Christ: Lavishly


“Almighty and everlasting God, make us always to have a will that is devoted to you and to serve your Majesty with a pure heart; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 622).


Mark 10:37 “…Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

St. Augustine [late 4th – early 5th century Bishop of Hippo Regius in present-day Tunisia]: “For, of course, even those disciples who wanted to sit, the one on his right, the other on his left, were looking to glory. They were on the lookout, but did not see by what way. In order that they might come to their homeland in due order, the Lord called them back to the narrow way. For the homeland is on high and the way to it is lowly. The homeland is life in Christ; the way is dying with Christ. The way is suffering with Christ; the goal is abiding with him eternally. Why do you seek the homeland if you are not seeking the way to it?” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Mark, 149).

Mark 10:38 “You do not know what you are asking…”

St. John Chrysostom [late 4th – early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople]: “They did not understand what they were asking for when they were talking to him about crowns and rewards and the privilege of the first seats and honors even before the contest had begun. Christ was communicating with them on two levels…One was that they were talking about an earthly kingdom and he had said nothing about this…The other was that, when they sought at this time the privilege of the first seats and the honors of heaven, when they wished to be seen as more illustrious and splendid than the others, they were not asking for those things at the right time. The timing was precisely wrong” (149-150).

Mark 10:44 “Whoever would be great among you must be slave of all…”

St. John Chrysostom [Great preacher of the early Church]: “He erased the curse, he triumphed over death, he opened paradise. He struck down sin, he opened wide the vaults of the sky, he lifted our first fruits to heaven, he filled the whole world with godliness. He drove out error, he led back the truth, he made our first fruits mount to the royal throne. He accomplished so many good deeds that neither I nor all humanity together could set them before our minds in words. Before he humbled himself, only the angels knew him. After he humbled himself, all human nature knew him. You see how his humbling of himself did not make him have less but produced countless benefits, countless deeds of virtue, and made his glory shine forth with greater brightness. God wants for nothing and has need of nothing. Yet when he humbled himself, he produced such great good, increased his household, and extended his kingdom. Why, then, are you afraid that you will become less if you humble yourself?” (151).

Mark 10:45 “…but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.”

St. Gregory Nazianzus [4th century Patriarch of Constantinople]: “He is our sanctification, as himself being purity, that the pure may be encompassed by his purity. He is our redemption, because he sets us free who were held captive under sin, giving himself as a ransom for us, the sacrifice to make expiation for the world. He is our resurrection, because he raises up, and brings to life again, those who were slain by sin” (151).


What would it look like for me to offer God my life in limitless, humble service today?


(Read this aloud daily until everyone in your home can say it from memory.)

The Ten Commandments


The Sixth Commandment

You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other (Luther’s Small Catechism).


1. Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.

2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.

3. If you are married, what one thing will you do this week to strengthen your marriage? If you are an unmarried adolescent or adult, how will you prepare to be a future spouse?

4. If you are a regular user of pornography, visit with your pastor about your addiction.

5. Sunday School, Bible study, and Confirmation instruction have begun. Make every effort with God’s help to discipline yourself to be involved, with the children in your life if you have them in your care, in the faithful study of God’s Word at St. Matthew’s this week.

6. Hang a crucifix or cross opposite your pillow so that the last sight you see before turning out the light is your Lord’s cross and the first sight of the new day reminds you to pray.

7. If you do not own one, please consider purchasing the Lutheran Study Bibles from Concordia:

For Husbands and Wives

Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”

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