If you have your Bibles, please take them and turn to Mark 9:30. I want to share a message with you entitled, “Descending Into Greatness…”
Beginning in Mark 9:30, Jesus and the Twelve left Caesarea Philippi and passed through Galilee. The end of the verse says He didn’t want anyone to know it. This is because His public ministry had now ended. His remaining time on earth would be devoted to teaching and training the Twelve.
In verse 31, we see Jesus predicted His death and resurrection for the second time. The first was in Mark 8:31.
31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
The third time will be in Mark 10:33.
33 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles.
Did you notice the slight difference in His first announcement and His second? In Mark 9:31, He included the idea of betrayal. The Son of Man was being betrayed into the hands of men.
This word in the language of the NT literally means delivered over to and is both bad news and good news. The bad news was that Judas was betraying the Lord. If you have been betrayed by a good friend, a close acquaintance, you’re in good company. Jesus was as well.
This was also good news in that it was God’s plan. See Acts 2:22-23.
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.
Even in bad times, in difficult times, in times suffering and tragedy, God has a plan, and His plan is for your good and His glory. Be encouraged.
However, verse 32 says the Twelve didn’t understand what He meant in this death prediction, and they were scared to ask. Maybe they were afraid to rebuked as Peter was.
Why didn’t they understand? After all, they heard Him previously in Mark 8:31. Had they forgotten? I would say it maybe because we often forget the bad. Yes, we remember when people do bad to us, but we often forget when we do bad ourselves. Regardless, they didn’t understand.
Now, Jesus is about to teach again on the meaning of discipleship after this death prediction. He did this back in Mark 8.
After Mark 8:31, He then told the Twelve that His disciples, anyone who would follow Him, should be characterized by self-denial, submission, and showing off the Savior. Remember, that is not about clothing or jewelry or bumper stickers but attitude, behavior, and thinking.
Jesus is going to tell the Twelve how to be great, but His recipe is not what you would think. Listen to my sermon title again, “Descending Into Greatness.” Does it strike you as odd?
Descending means to go down. Down is a word reserved for losers and cowards. It is a part of words like downfall, downsize, downhill, and down and out.
Furthermore, the opposite of down is up. Up is associated with the up and coming, the upper class, the upper percentile, and upscale.
Generally speaking, to go down is negative. To go up is positive. To go down is bad. To go up is good.
However, all of this logic and thinking is the way of the way of the world. It is not the way of the Lord Jesus. This morning, you will see that the Lord Jesus calls His disciples to go down, to descend, and as a result, they will descend into greatness.
- The Examination of Greatness, Mark 9:33-34
33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest
9:33 tells us that Jesus and His disciples came to Capernaum and went into the house. More than likely this was Peter’s house. Evidently, Jesus knew they had been discussing something rather significant. Maybe this was because of the volume of the discussion. Perhaps voices were being raised so He asked, “What were you discussing on the way?”
They were silent. Why? They were probably embarrassed and ashamed of the shallowness of their debate.
They wanted to know who was the greatest among them. This was a common question in the Jewish culture and maybe originated with Jesus taking only Peter, James, and John up to Mount Transfiguration.
- The Explanation of Greatness, Mark 9:35
35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
As the rabbi/teacher, Jesus took His formal place for giving instruction and sat down and called the Twelve to Himself. He said, “Gather around boys.”
He said if you want to be first, you must be last of all. Who doesn’t want to be first? We want to get our food. We want to be first to get our seats and first to get our tickets.
However, if you’re going to be first in the Kingdom of Heaven and as a follow of Jesus, you must be last and last of all. Ironically enough, this way of thinking was counter to everything the Twelve knew and counter to everything we know.
This mentality is counter-natural. As I said previously, we like to be first because first often means best and or most important.
This mentality is counter-cultural. In our culture, being first doesn’t mean going down but up. Go up in sales. Go up in revenue. Go up in points. Go up in GPA. To go down is to lose.
Thirdly and unfortunately, this mentality is too often counter-Christian. Jesus’ way is not the way of Christians and the way of the Church, but it should be. If you want to be first, we must become last.
- Epitomization of Greatness, Mark 9:36-37
36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”
Perhaps this was Peter’s child since they were more than likely in Peter’s house. Jesus sat the child on His knee with His arm around him. Literally, this was a toddler, an infant.
Children were the lowest of stature and status in the Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures. Jesus called His disciples to receive those like this child in His name.
To receive means to welcome, to show kindness, to serve. When we serve the least, we demonstrate our relationship with Jesus, and we also demonstrate our relationship with His Father.
First, we learn from this passage the value and significance of children and serving children. A church full of children is a church full of life. Please don’t be disturbed by children crying in church. You don’t even have to be disturbed if children were to play in the pews. Is that best? No, it’s best, but it’s ok.
Also, if children are significant and serving children is good, why is it a struggle to get more nursery volunteers? Church, we need you, and men, we need you. You can demonstrate your relationship with the Father and salvation through Jesus by serving children at EBC.
Second, generally, we should be about serving others. Jesus said that and demonstrated that best in John 13:1-17.
1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” 8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.” 12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Finally, Jesus served all of humanity by dying on the cross for our sins. See Mark 10:45.
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Greatness in the eyes of God is not measured in status but in service!