Sermon for August 1, 2021

What is considered “GREAT” according to Jesus

Mark 9:33-50

Mark 9:33–50 (NIV): 33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.[44] 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. [46] 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where

         “ ‘the worms that eat them do not die,

         and the fire is not quenched.’

49 Everyone will be salted with fire.

50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

There are certain statements, that when you break them down, really don’t seem so great.  Like, what was so “great” about the Great Depression.  Of course, we understand great being about the time span and how it negatively affected a newly industrialized nation. For many of us, we think of the word “great” in a positive sense without realizing what it is defining.  For most, we place the word “great’ on the same plain as “awesome”, which of course has the root word “awe”.  The word “awe” is salt and peppered throughout all of Scripture, especially when associated with the powers and miracles of God.  Awesome is yet another word that can be a descriptive oxymoron.  Think of when the words “awesome destruction” is paired together.  In today’s Scripture, we see Jesus define terms.

  • It is “great” being last?!? (I think the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate this) vs. 33-35
  • Ministry to children is a greater goal than what you need to make you “great”! vs. 36-37
  • If the name of Jesus is being celebrated, don’t fight with the results even if their tactics are different than what you celebrate! vs. 38-40
  • Your attitudes can turn children (both literal people who are of the age of children and spiritual children who are young in the faith) away from Jesus by your behavior and attitudes!
  • So be “GREAT” at working on “YOURSELF”!

Did the disciples understand this teaching?  Nope!  Well, at least not quickly…

Mark 10:13–16 (NIV): 13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

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