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Slaves to All

March 25th 2012 by Joel Schultz

Jesus is going up to Jerusalem to suffer and die for the sins of the world, but the disciples do not understan. They are looking for earthly glory but Jesus tells them that to be great they must be servants. Listen or read to find out more.

Lent 5B – “Slaves of All” – Mark 10:32-45 – March 25, 2012

The time is getting close – both for Jesus in the Gospel of Mark and for us in the church year. Very soon it will be Palm Sunday and Jesus will enter Jerusalem amid the praise and adulation of the crowds in order to suffer and die of the sins of the world.

Our text this morning begins with Jesus’ third prediction of His death and resurrection in Mark’s Gospel. The first time, in chapter 8, Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes Him for saying such things. The second time, in Mark 9, the disciples do not understand and are afraid to ask Him about it further. Now, Jesus’ prediction is followed by a request from James and John: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (v37).

Although Jesus had just described His coming passion in greater detail than before, His disciples still did not understand. They believed Him to be the Messiah but had ears only for the glory connected with being the Messiah and not for the suffering. Their request is really quite selfish and self-centered. James and John wanted their future places of honor prepared for them. They wanted to be in positions of honor and glory.

But Jesus wants them to think about their request. “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?” (v38). They did not understand that the way to the throne is one of suffering and death – His suffering and death of which He had just spoken. This suffering and death only One person could endure. Jesus would lay down His life and suffer separation from God to pay for the sins of the world.

The rest of the disciples are really no different in terms of their self-centered dispositions: “When the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John” (v41). Were they angry at the audacity of the request or at the fact that they hadn’t thought of it themselves?

Selfishness… it invades all our lives. When it comes to looking out for ourselves and getting and doing what we want in order to bring self-satisfaction or self-promotion, we are really no different from the self-centered disciples. Our world preaches to us daily that greatness is found in looking out for oneself – doing what you want when you want, getting what you want, achieving more, gaining more. Our desires become more important than our spouse’s. Our children’s needs become a burden to fulfill. Employment is not joyful and loving.

Sports and hobbies and trips take precedent over God’s Word and serving the church and community. The stewardship/ management of our time, talents, financial and other resources become focused on self and what they can do for me. When it comes down to it, we are just as self-centered as the disciples if not more.

But Jesus comes to His disciples – and to us – and turns the worldly idea of power and glory and of selfish living on its head. Jesus says, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (vv42-44).

It is as if the world and the kingdom of God are parallel universes with different laws of physics. In the world, life is about getting. If I am great, that means I am higher than you and I have more for myself. On the other hand, in the kingdom of God, life is about giving. If I am great, then I serve you. Jesus words are a serve indictment of the world and our sinful flesh that seeks worldly things.

So how do we change from self-centered people and live as servants in this world? Well, we look to Jesus. At the end of our text, Jesus reveals the goal of His coming passion: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v45).

Jesus is more concerned to give than to get. He seeks to be servant to all. And so, Jesus willingly became our ransom – the price of His life was paid on the cross to set us free from sin and death. It was the price paid for all the times we are selfish in our living – all the times we fail to live as servants to others in this world. He suffered the death we deserve so that we might have life. And in Baptism we have been raised to a new life – a life that puts to death the sinful flesh – a life led by the Holy Spirit – a life that sees the kingdom of God rather than the world – a life that seeks sacrifice and giving and serving.

From the moment of our baptism, the Lord has given us changed lives. We are no longer servants of Satan and slaves to sin. Instead, we are the children of the Heavenly Father. Instead, we are given an eternal inheritance – life with Jesus forever. That life puts life in this world into perspective. That is the change in perspective that Paul writes to the Corinthians about: “And [Christ] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:15). And also to the Philippians: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4).

That describes the life of a believer. We are eager to live for Christ and serve others. And there are various vocations to which you are called by God to serve.

There is much service that you are called to and carry out in your own home – caring for your children and your spouse, respecting your parents, sharing in the work of the household, raising your children in the Christian faith. There is also much service that you are called to in the work place whether you are an employer or employee – Christian witness in word and deed, honesty and integrity, faithful and hard work. There is also much service you are called to as a member of the church and specifically Beautiful Savior – worship regularly, learn and grow in God’s Word, support your fellow Christians in the faith, to give witness to your faith in word and deed, and to be involved in the service of this congregation.

Just these three examples can involve a lot of serving. So how much is expected of me? But its not simply a matter of quantity. I am certain that Jesus would expect the quantity of our service to be much more than we think. It is really a matter of the heart. Let me give you two examples from my life. The first happened on Thursday of this week. I got a call that a freshman girl at the Lutheran High had died after a long battle with cancer. The principal wanted several pastors to come and help lead a student assembly and do grief counseling. My initial thought was: “Ugh! Please not today I’m working on my sermon which isn’t going too well. I don’t have time to serve today.” Because there were 4 other pastors who weren’t selfish with their time, I decided that I could be and didn’t go. I regret that decision and by God’s grace I won’t let that happen again.

The other instance happened last Sunday when I found out that a group of Beautiful Savior members headed by the Evangelism Board were going to nursing homes this Sunday at 1:45 to sing Easter songs. Do you know what my initial thought was as I was reading that announcement? “Ugh! After 6 hours at church, most of which are spent on my feet and expending a great amount of emotional energy, the LAST thing I want to do is spend 2-3 hours standing and singing.”

I have been thinking of a way to get out of going all week. However, on Friday after being convicted of my previous failure, lying on the couch for a few hours this afternoon is not a necessary activity. Rather my service, using the gifts that God has given me in what is necessary and I joyfully look forward to singing and sharing the love of Jesus today at a couple of local nursing homes. But it is a struggle. My sinful nature was tempting me this morning to try to get out of it again. But the new creation created through Holy Baptism will win out.

Where is your heart for service? Jesus says that we must be servants… slaves of all. Your family needs your service. Your business needs your service. Your church needs your service. Where is your heart for service? In fact, let me point to a couple of service needs in our congregation right now. The nominations committee is still looking for some servants especially for our Evangelism Board, Assimilation Board, and Preschool Board. If the Holy Spirit moves your heart today, talk to me after the service. If you feel you have no special skills in these areas, well God always gives the skills and passion to serve where He desires.

As redeemed children of God, Jesus now shows Himself to be the model of the kind of life He is urging for you and me: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v45). Serving the Lord in His kingdom is not a matter of token contributions or a minimalistic attitude. Serving the Lord in His kingdom is a way of life – a life given to us through His death and resurrection. Amen.

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