Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Sermon Title: Walk – what it means to walk after Jesus
Scripture Text: Mark 9:30-37
The attitude of servanthood
The acceptance of last and the least
The actions of our Servant King
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.”
I Am the Greatest! I Am the Greatest!
Who do you think said that? This person wrote a poem as follows:
I Am the Greatest!
This is the legend of Cassius Clay,
The most beautiful fighter in the world today.
He talks a great deal and brags indeedy
Of a muscular punch that’s incredibly speedy.
The fistic world was dull and weary;
With a champ like Liston things had to be dreary.
Then someone with color, someone with dash,
Brought the fight fans a running with cash
The brash young boxer is something to see
And the heavyweight championship is his destiny… Cassius Clay, 1963
This was pen six months before Cassius Clay won the world heavyweight championship and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
This ‘I am the greatest statement’ by Muhammad Ali, has led us today to another term. A term known as GOAT.
Now if you look up the dictionary, you would find 2 meanings. Firstly the more common one which is as follows – an animal related to sheep that usually has horns and a beard. Goats live wild on mountains or are kept on farms to provide milk, meat, wool, etc.
A second meaning, which has Cassius Clay’s influence, is that GOAT is an acronym for “Greatest of all time.”
So in the sporting world, with regards to women’s tennis, it could be Serena Williams or Steffi Graf, in basketball, it might be LeBron James or Michael Jordan. And in football, people are debating if its Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
GOAT means you are not just the best of your generation, you are the best across all generations.
Now, many of us may not be vying for the best in class, but we sure compete in other ways. No matter what, we always want to beat the person next to you.
So we post pictures of unique places we have visited, the exquisite cuisine we have indulged in. We don’t say it, but it’s can imply, one more point for my score chart.
Even marriage and weddings are not spared. Couples go to great length for their proposals as it needs to be at least as spectacular as all my other friends.
And for their wedding dinner, if the wedding before had a pianist for their dinner cocktails, then a quartet now has to be hired.
One-upmanship is a human trait. We are all born with it. It stems, I submit from the basic sin of pride.
The world knows it and it encourages this me-first mentality. Much of all consumerism feeds this tendency as well.
And to a certain extent, our nation’s Kiasu-ism is also a by-product of this me-first mentality too.
So if we are disciples of Jesus Christ, how should we walk, how should we live?
Should we live as the world does, should we embrace the principles of society or is there a different way to walk?
Today, we look at our 4th W. Walk – living like Christ before others.
Just to recap, we have already looked at Worship from Ps 100, Work from Jas 2, and Word from 2 Tim 3.
Today, may God’s word speak to us about living as Jesus lived.
The attitude of servanthood
Mk 9:33 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.”
Many believe that the house that Jesus and the disciples were in, is the home of Peter and Andrew (1:29) since Capernaum was their hometown.
So the disciples, typical of all humans down throughout human history, were arguing with one another about who was the greatest. Who would be the most prominent?
I’m sure they were arguing, how would each disciple be ranked after Jesus. How is the pecking order amongst the 12 disciples.
Human’s have not changed in 21 centuries. Pride and ambition are great temptations for all of us. And so Mark’s Gospel is showing us the attitudes of the disciples.
What are their hidden desires that are coming up to the surface in their arguments.
Even though they did not express their thoughts aloud, Jesus knew what was going on. He gave them a chance to confess, but they kept silent.
And the same thing is true for us today as well.
We may not express our pride or our me-first mentality, but God knows and he cannot be fooled.
We may even mask it under some disguise of our actions and words, but God knows the attitudes of our hearts.
So as we consider our walk before God, we need to be reminded today – nothing is ever hidden from God.
Now, I’m sure we all take comfort that God’s love for us is wide as the sky and as deep as the ocean.
Let us also take comfort that God’s love will reach out and lovingly move us towards holiness no matter where we are.
As we yearn for God’s presence during our difficulties, let us also accept His presence when we are disobedient.
So Jesus sat down and taught his disciples a lesson in humility and servanthood.
The fact that Jesus sat down was not just Mark, describing what happened, but it is the symbolic act that Jesus, as a rabbi was going into a teaching mode.
So to the world’s constant obsession of being the greatest, Jesus teaches, if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.
Someone has captured the contrast between Pride and Humility as follows:
The proud heart displays the wisdom of the world and the humble heart displays the wisdom of God. Whoever wants to be first, he must be last.
The phase ‘He must be last’, gives us this sense of action and an assertion of a desire that will happen in the future. This means there is a deliberate act of the will.
So if believers want to be seen as first in God’s eyes, we must deliberately and intentionally seek to be last.
I came across this saying “Officers eat last”. So I googled and it seems this is something the U.S. Marines inculcate in their commissioned Officers.
From what I’ve read, it’s a fundamental philosophy of Marine Corps leadership that officers wait to eat until all Marines beneath them in rank have gotten their food.
This is done especially during training and overseas deployment.
So according to war reporter Sebastian Junger, this rule creates a sense of unity and instills loyalty, and it’s an attitude that business leaders should use too.
I think we would call it servant leadership.
I’m sure when you are hot, tired and very hungry, as an officer to move to the back of the food line is a deliberate act of the will.
In Hermon, may I give 2 examples which I hope would be relatable.
Firstly, at church camps. One of the challenges we have always faced is the readiness of rooms when we arrive at the hotel.
Yes, we do have the advance party that tries to get the rooms all sorted out and ready when our tour buses arrive.
But sometimes because there are back to back church camps, it takes time for the hotel staff to have the rooms ready.
In such situations, when we are all hot, tired and hungry, how do we as leaders and mature believers react? Would we be willing to let the older members and families with young children get their rooms first?
When we receive the keys, do we say ‘Well it’s about time!’ or do we say, it looks like they need it more than me, should they have this room first?
Would we be willing to move to the back of the line?
Secondly, our car parking in CCKBC. We know they are limited. Is it a first come first served policy for you?
Or would you be willing to allow members who have young families or elderly to park – even if you have turned into the carpark ahead of them?
Again in such a case, would we be wiling to move to the back of the line?
God says, if you want to be first in his eyes, we must deliberately want to be last of all.
That’s totally counter-culture isn’t it. It goes against the grain of all that our society says is our right and our entitlement.
But God is in the process of molding us to be like Jesus and that means being counter-culture.
Mark’s Gospel tells us further that we are to seek to be the servant of all. Now the word servant here is ‘diakonos’ in which we also translate as ‘Deacon’.
So it does not mean to be a slave that has no rights or to have a subservient status. Not a doormat that everyone walks all over.
No, it means that we are to give free and voluntary service to others. It means in humility we have an attitude of unselfishness which seeks the welfare and well-being of others.
In the Methodist tradition, their ordination of ministers have 2 levels, first as a Deacon and then as an Elder.
A Methodist pastor friend of mine, once shared that as he was ordained as an Elder, he was given this particular advice.
Even as you are ordained as an Elder today, remember, once a Deacon always a Deacon.
So as a Deacon, as a Servant of Christ, never forget that even when God elevates you to greater responsibility, the heart of a servant must always to be there.
And I think that is timely reminder for all of us who are in formal leadership positions in Hermon.
Church, the walk of Jesus is the walk of humility and the walk of servanthood.
So within the faith community, may 1 Peter be our guide:
1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace
As we seek to be God’s witnesses to the non-believing world, may Matthew 5 be our guide:
Mt 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
The acceptance of last and the least
The ending of Mk 9:35, it says, that those who want to be first in God’s eyes are to be the servant of all.
Who is this ‘all’? Is it my circle of good friends, my esteemed colleagues, my respected superiors, my loyal customers?
Jesus elaborates –
Mk 9:36 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.”
As we seek to understand what this text means, let’s know what it does not mean. It does not mean that we are to become like a little child.
What Jesus is saying is, we are to be like Jesus and to receive children as how Jesus receives them.
Today we see children as cute loveable younger humans that we love to spoil and look after. Some have become little emperor’s in their own homes, ensuring servitude from their parents.
The family timetable revolves around them and their preferences over-ride everything.
In contrast, children in the time of Jesus were the least in society. They were often also the weakest.
Infant mortality was high and within an agricultural society, boys I’m sure were favoured more than girls.
The worth of the child was seen only in the potential ability to contribute to the earning capabilities of the family.
Children take from you and they are not shy about it. And they see it also as their right to expect service from you. And unless taught, they will never respond in gratitude nor thanksgiving.
Therefore, children embody, those who are the insignificant in society, those that take and give nothing in return.
So the point of Jesus’ enacted parable, is that to be a servant of all – it means it will include even those insignificant ones in society, like this child.
Thus Jesus teaches us, we to receive the least and the last in the name of Jesus.
Scripture records that Jesus ate with sinners, with tax collectors and with prostitutes. He fellowshipped with those outcasted by society so that He could show them God’s love.
To receive the least and the last like Jesus, means we do not discriminate.
Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
So if equality of access to salvation and equality within the body of Christ is taught, how should we interact with people on our daily basis?
For many of us who are Singapore students, we are obsessed with our grades. Now with project work that many have to do, the choice of project teammates is always a sensitive issue right?
Would we as Christian students reach out to help those who are struggling, those who are in the fringe of the class?
Yes, it might affect your grade negatively, it might mean you have to tank most of the project.
But would God’s love compel you to reach out?
I remember vividly how I was taught this lesson in seminary. We have overseas students from our neighboring countries as classmates.
And after we, the Singaporeans had sort of grouped ourselves, my class rep in year 1, started to then allocate the foreign classmates to each of our groups.
Due to their limited command of English, they were restricted in their contributions. It also affected their efficiency to process information.
Yet, I could see that team members wanted to be inclusive and did not mind their reduced contributions, instead went out of their way to assist.
The least and the last in society will never be able to repay, yet Jesus says, would you receive them in my name?
As a church, I thank the Session leaders for being so willing to give monthly support to our sister church Gerizim a few years ago when they were tight financially.
It so encouraged my faith – there was not just no objection, but instead there was active support when the proposal was presented.
I thank God also when Session members are enthusiastic to have join events with Gerizim too.
On an objective basis, it may seem like it benefits them more than us, but does it really? Is it not more blessed to give than to receive?
I pray that as a church community, we will continue to look for ways we can be a blessing to others. Especially those who will never be able to repay nor reciprocate.
And this principle also drives our passion for missions. Remember why we have used ASEAN as our geographical area of missions. Our Singapore Dollar has great impact within this region.
And as a small church, I believe, we can be efficacious for God in these 10 countries.
And the bible is consistent in what it sees as genuine faith for James says:
Jas 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Finally in v37, Jesus ends with this wonderful commendation. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.
When we serve the least and the last, we are serving Jesus and God our Father. What a wonderful privilege that is.
Church, what should we desire as our greatest reward to receive for all eternity?
May I submit it should be this –
At our death bed, to hear the encouragement from our fellow believers – 2 Tim 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
And more importantly, as we enter into God’s presence, to hear Jesus say,
Mt 25:21 ‘Well done, good and faithful servant …. Enter into the joy of your master.’
The actions of our Servant King
To walk like Jesus is to be a servant and to be a servant to the least and the last.
And to serve as such, is to serve by giving and giving and giving some more. Giving without the thought of any reciprocity.
What does that sound like? It sounds like the grace of God that we have received in Christ Jesus.
Here is where I want to go back to v30 to 32. This is the immediate context of the disciples arguing about who will be the greatest.
Jesus is telling 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.
Earlier in the chapter, Peter James and John had been with Jesus as he was transfigured and they witness Elijah and Moses speaking with Jesus.
This glorious Jesus, who is the Messiah is going to the cross for them. Yet all they are arguing about is the crown they feel, they are entitled to.
Scripture is teaching us, the actions of our servant king is what we are to model after. Remember Paul says,
Phil 2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
To many of us, we may think we have heard this before, we know and we understand.
May I show you from Mark’s gospel that timely and repeated reminders are necessary.
Because we like the disciples we can be dull of hearing.
Today’s text is situated in the middle of the 3 times Jesus taught his disciples about his impending death as the Messiah.
Mk 8:31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Mk 9:31 “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.”
Mk 10:33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
Mk 8:32And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Mk 9:34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.
Mk 10:37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
Mk 8:34 he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Mk 9:35 And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Mk 10:42 “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.”
So the first row with is Jesus’ Passion. Jesus’ 3 teaching about his sacrificial death and resurrection.
Next we see very immediately the very human response from the disciples. In the first passion, Peter says, the Messiah cannot suffer and die. He should be a victorious conquering king.
But Jesus teaches, disciples are to take up our cross and follow after the example of Jesus.
We have just gone through the text of the 2nd passion account. Model after Jesus who is willing to be the servant of all.
Finally, the 3rd passion account. Here James and John are asking for the pre-eminent seats next to Jesus. Again typical of sinful humanity.
And Jesus teaches again, do not be like society. Instead, be each other’s servant. Follow Jesus, for he came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.
Is it not ironic that when Jesus speaks of his cross, his disciples are requesting for a crown.
Yet Jesus so graciously teaches them again and again, no, follow after me, I’m your servant king.
Let me conclude. The teachings of Jesus are hard. They are impossible for they are counter-cultural. They go against the sinful instinct of our human nature.
But as believers, we can follow the example of our Master and Lord, because of what has happened at Calvary.
When Jesus died on that cross, the wages of sin has been paid. By His resurrection, Jesus broke sin’s curse upon us.
Now, we have been freed to live for Jesus.
The grace of God for salvation is now also the sustaining grace that enables us to say no to ungodliness and yes to righteousness.
Church, the teachings of Jesus in Scripture, enables us to know what is right in our heads. How we should walk in the ways of Jesus.
Let us now yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit, that He will now work in our hearts, to apply His transformative power in our lives.
And when that happens, it will move our hands to execute servanthood to the least and the last.
So that we may walk in ways that will bring glory to God the Father.