Mark 9:30-37 (Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost—Series B)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
September 23, 2012
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is from the Gospel reading from Mark 9:
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And [Jesus] 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.”
How do you like it when someone drops a bombshell on you? I’m talking about when someone tells you something that is so surprising and shocking that you feel totally blown away by the information. Think about the feeling you get when you receive that kind of information. That’s probably how the disciples were feeling in our Gospel lesson today. Jesus had dropped a bombshell on them and they just didn’t understand it.
Technically, this is the second bombshell dropped on the disciples in as many chapters. The first came at Mark 8:31, “[Jesus] began to teach [the disciples] 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.” If you remember the story, Peter objected to this and rebuked Jesus, after which Jesus rebuked Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mark 8:33) Peter didn’t get that it was necessary for Jesus to do these things as Messiah and Savior.
Today, bombshell number two has a similar effect. Jesus was teaching and was saying to His disciples, “The Son of Man is delivered up into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and when He is killed, after three days He will rise.” And Mark records, “But they were ignorant of the matter and they were afraid to ask Him.”
How could they miss it? Jesus was teaching them! He was telling them all about the master plan of salvation! Jesus’ first prediction of His passion indicated the complete necessity of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Here we have Jesus teaching His disciples in terms of a fact so certain that He described it as already accomplished. This was my bombshell this week. And I want to share it with you so that you can be blown away along with me as we share in the amazingness of Jesus our Savior.
Jesus said to the disciples, “The Son of Man is delivered up into the hands of men, and they will kill him.” If we wrote this sentence in school we would have probably gotten points taken off for the abrupt shift in tenses. “Is delivered up” is a present tense verb, something that is happening now. “Will kill” is future, something that is coming up but hasn’t happened yet. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Jesus to say, “The Son of Man will be delivered up into the hands of men, and they will kill him”? Judas Iscariot was the betrayer, but he hadn’t betrayed Jesus yet. He was the one who did the delivering up of Jesus into the hands of men. Or did he?
Jesus speaks to the disciples in terms that clearly show that His being delivered up into the hands of men is already taking place. This was Jesus’ bombshell for me. This is the first time that I am not ignorant of the matter of which Jesus was speaking. Jesus’ betrayal by Judas to the scribes, elders, and chief priests is in the future. The suffering and death on a cross is in Jesus’ future. His resurrection on the third day is in the future. But Jesus’ delivering up into the hand of men was already taking place because God the Father has already done it! It’s a statement of fact by Jesus. Jesus might have just as well said, “I am right now already delivered up into the hands of men by God the Father, and the cross and the empty tomb are yet to come.”
So what does this mean? It means “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” (John 3:16a) It means that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) It means “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.” (Galatians 4:4). God delivered up His Son Jesus into the hands of people in His incarnation among us. The eternal Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son, was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He became man. God gave Him, delivered Him up, into the hands of people in order to be humanity’s Savior. And look at what kind of people into whose hands Jesus was delivered up. I like how the Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to write it in 1 Timothy1:15, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”
Jesus came into the world as man to save sinners. That’s why God delivered Him up to be conceived by the Spirit’s power in the womb of the virgin Mary. That’s why God delivered Jesus up to be born in Bethlehem. God the Father delivered Jesus into the hands of sinful people to serve and not to be served, and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
As sinners we don’t always think much of service. We, as demonstrated by the disciples, think about our own greatness. We think about how we can “one up” others. We even try to “one up” God and think we can do His job in our own lives. Maybe we don’t verbalize it, but many times our attitudes and actions say, “I’m so great that I can control every aspect of my life. I’ve got it all together. I don’t need God or other people. I can do it all by myself.” And then we fall flat and fail miserably. Why? Because we aren’t God! We don’t have it all together. Your sins and my sins prove it. If we had it all together, we’d be getting along with everyone. There wouldn’t be conversations about greatness and prestige and power. There wouldn’t be words of anger and hatred. There wouldn’t be lying and cheating and deceiving to get ahead in life.
God, who is truly the greatest, delivered up His Son to be human. Jesus who created the world and sustains it by His very Word, He who is King of kings and Lord of lords, became servant of all—servant to sinners! Jesus the Servant was delivered by His Father into the hands of sinful people and He was killed on a cross to pay for the sins of those people by shedding His precious blood. On the third day Jesus rose from the dead forever defeating not only the power of sin, but also that of death and hell. This service Jesus rendered to you, for you, because to Him you are the greatest! What a bombshell!
Jesus became the servant of sinners so that He might make you kings and queens in His Kingdom. He suffered the punishment for your sinful pride and for your selfishness so that you can live eternally as God’s children, co-heirs with Christ of His Kingdom. In Christ, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1Peter 2:9) And we proclaim His excellencies by being like Christ in our community.
God has, in and through our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, delivered us up into the hands of people. God has delivered us up to people to serve them in Jesus’ name. Those who are first (and God certainly sees us as first and greatest in His Kingdom through the merits of Jesus Christ!) are the servants of others. As Christ was for us so we are for other people. Those who receive you as children of God in service to King Jesus are really receiving Jesus. And if they, through you, receive Jesus, they are also receiving God our Father. Talk about another bombshell! When you and I live and serve other people as children of God in the name of the Savior Jesus, people actually see the Lord through our words and actions and receive His gifts.
I guess the best way to explain it is to let Jesus do it in His own Word from Matthew25, “Then the King[, Jesus,] will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Mat 25:31-40 ESV)
This has been quite a bombshell of a day! How totally blown away we are by the immense grace and love of God to us and to all people. He delivered up Jesus into the hands of sinful people so that He could serve us by dying on a cross in our place, winning the forgiveness of our sins, and rising again from the grave, securing our everlasting salvation. Now, as children of God and heirs of the Kingdom, our Lord Himself delivers us up into the hands of people so that we might go forth in the name of our Savior Jesus and serve them with His love, grace, and mercy by giving them His Word of life and the material help and things they need. And that’s what makes you great! Remember, you are the greatest in the Kingdom because you are servants of the King! Whom then will you serve this week in Jesus’ name? Amen.