Apr 14, 2013
Mark 9:30-50

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[Mark 9:30] “Then they (Jesus and the disciples) departed from there and passed through Galilee, and Jesus did not want anyone to know it.” 

Over the next two chapters we will follow Jesus as he journeys towards Jerusalem:

  • Begins in the Northernmost region of Israel (Mount Hermon & Caesarea Philippi).

  • Travels South to the region of Galilee.

  • Travels around the Northeastern rim of the Sea of Galilee.

  • He will stay the night in the city of Capernaum.

  • Before traveling South down the Jordan river valley.

  • East through the Judean wilderness (cities of Jericho, Bethphage, and Bethany).

  • Before finally arriving in Jerusalem. 

There are two reasons why Jesus “did not want anyone to know it.” 

1. Jesus is on a timetable. He wants to be in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.

2. Jesus wanted to focus His attention on the disciples.

[Mark 9:31-32] “For He taught His disciples saying, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.” But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.”

This is the second time we see Jesus teaching them this lesson:

1st Time: Mark 8:31, “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders.... be killed, and after three days rise again.”

2nd Time: Jesus introduces a new wrinkle. 

“The Son of Man is being betrayed.” - active verb.

Note: Jesus always couples a lesson on His death with His resurrection.

Sad admission by Peter: “We did not understand and were afraid to ask.” (B-Sides)

[Mark 9:33-34] “Jesus came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.” 

In the house” - definite article indicates this was the home of Peter.
  • The only home mentioned in Capernaum was Peters (Mark 1).

  • Peter’s home seems to be the headquarters for Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus asked them what they were disputing about on the road.

He asked” - verb tense indicates Jesus kept asking.

Disputed” - Greek word denotes a heated argument.

They kept silent” - indicating they refused to answer Jesus.

Q: Why would the disciples refuse to answer Jesus?

A: Their argument was over “who would be the greatest.

[Mark 9:35] “And Jesus sat down (teacher always sat), called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 

Though they refused to answer Jesus’ question, knowing what their argument was about, He uses the occasion to teach them an important lesson concerning greatness. 

Jesus begins by saying, “If anyone desires to be first....” 

Desires” - Greek verb “thelô” - “to have in mind, to be determined.”

To be first” - Greek adjective “prôtos” - “first in rank, chief, principal.”

1st Observation: It’s not wrong to desire greatness.

Jesus doesn’t rebuke the disciples for their desire for greatness.

The human desire for achievement, success, accomplishment, influence, notoriety, even acclaim (what we would summarize as greatness) is not in-and-of-itself wrong.

Note: The underlying distinction is personal greatness verses kingdom greatness.

The desire to do something noteworthy for the Lord, to make a great impact for the cause of Christ, to make a tangible difference is not wrong nor is it ungodly.

It’s how we go about achieving this desire that is of most importance. If we want to be great in the kingdom we must operate according to the rules of the kingdom.

Jesus continues.... “he shall be last of all and servant of all.

Shall be last of all” - Jesus is describing our perspective of our position.

Be last” not “Do last” - He is encouraging us to view ourselves as being last.

Jesus is describing an attitude - a position of the heart, not an action!

The person who really desires greatness will possess a minimal perspective of self and prefers others as being greater than self.! 

There cannot be a sense of entitlement or a prideful view of self-worth.

Servant of all” - Jesus is describing the action required of our position. 

Servant” - Greek noun “diakonos” - “one who executes the command of another, the servant of a king, a waiter, one who serves food or drink.”

In Rome, a person’s power was determined by how many people served him. 

A truly great person will not only have a humble perspective of themselves, but will demonstrate this perspective through his service of others. 

Note: “All” in the Geek literally means “all.”

Litmus Test: How do you react if you’re treated as a servant?

2nd Observation: Jesus is ultimately describing Himself. 

Context: Disciples were arguing as to who would be the greatest in the Kingdom.

Ironically, Jesus would be the greatest. 

As God, Jesus took a lowly position by humbling Himself by coming as a man.

As man, Jesus came to serve His Father by serving others.

Encouraging: Jesus never asks us to do something He Himself was not willing to do first!

3rd Observation: Jesus’ path to greatness defies conventional wisdom.

Warren Wiersbe, “The world’s philosophy is that you are great if others are working for you, but Christ’s message is that greatness comes from our serving others.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “A great man is always willing to be little.” 

MLK, “Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.” 

Jesus will teach the disciples 6 Attributes of a Servant:

1. A servant expects nothing in return.

[Mark 9:36-37] “Then Jesus 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, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

To make this first point Jesus uses a child to illustrate a greater reality.

“Little child” - this phrase can be viewed as a person with no insignificance.

In the 1st century children were regarded as property on the social scale. 

Why use a child to make this point?

1. Children are demanding. You care for them. They cannot care for you.

2. Serving a child won’t advance you. You can’t expect something in return.

Point: We should serve without selfish motivation or personal ambition.

Observation: Jesus places our service in relation to Himself.

“Whoever receives one of these.... in My name receives Me.”

No matter who I’m serving I’m ultimately serving Jesus.

2. A servant avoids sectarianism.

[Mark 9:38-41] “Now John answered Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

The issue: There was someone “casting out demons” using the authority of Jesus, but since they weren’t one of the 12 John says they “forbade him” from doing so.

To use the name of Jesus is the same as working under His authority.

The reason they “forbade him” was that this man “did not follow us....” 

Note: John didn’t say this man wasn’t a follower Jesus only that he wasn’t one of them. 

Ironically, this man could cast out demons when the 9 had recently failed.

Their rejection was based in affiliation not doctrine.

Jesus’ response, “he who is not against us is on our side.

Jesus established the basis of unity: “in My name.

A true servant will avoid insignificant disputes and instead pursue commonality.

We should be gracious and kind even to people who are not in our group.

Jon Courson, “We should take a lot more things a lot less seriously.”

Paul would be rebuke the Corinthians for their sectarian perspective.

“The more spiritual a man becomes the less denominational the man becomes.”

If we couple Mark 9:40 (“He who is not against us is on our side”) with Matthew 12:30 (“He that is not with Me is against Me”) we see the impossibility of neutrality when it comes to our relationship with Jesus. (B-Side)

3. A servant understands the stakes are high.

[Mark 9:42] “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.”

Whoever causes” - whoever were to cause.

One of these little ones” - in context Jesus is speaking of more than children.

Who believes in Me to stumble” - “skandalizô” - “to cause to fall away.”

It would be better for him” - it would be preferable for him to die before hand.

Two lessons Jesus is communicating:

1. The worst thing a person can do is cause a new believer to fall away.

2. A servant should safeguard against committing such an egregious sin.

How do we safeguard against “causing one of these to stumble?”
.    .    .    .    .    .    .

4. A servant is willing to deal with himself radically.

[Mark 9:43-48] “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life (the life) maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched - where ‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’ 

“And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched - where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’ And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire - where ‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’

Note: This is the second time Jesus taught this lesson. 

The first time was in Matthew 5 during the Sermon on the Mount.

Repetition demonstrates the importance of what Jesus is saying.

If there’s anything in your life that would cause you “to sin,” a servant should be willing to take radical action to “cut it off” knowing it would be “better to enter into life maimed than go to hell where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” 

Note: Jesus is not being literal, but figurative.

Joey Gladstone philosophy concerning sin: “Cut - it - out!”

“Sin is to the inner person what a cancerous tumor is to the body.”

Jesus speaks of the hands (what I do), feet (where I go), eyes (what I desire).

With eternity being weighed in the balance a servant knows what’s at stake.

Big Lesson: Hell is to be avoided at all cost. (B-Side)

5. A servant knows his life is about preparation and reward.

[Mark 9:49-50] “For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.” 

“Everyone will be seasoned with fire.... every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt?”

Seasoned” - Greek verb “halizô” - “to salt, season with salt.”

KJV: “everyone salted with fire.... every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.”

A servant being “seasoned with the fire” speaks of the purifying effects of tribulation.

Fire purifies by burning away the dross and impurities.

Fire now and glory in eternity.... or glory now and fire in eternity?

A servant’s works will be “seasoned with salt” or judged and rewarded.

Salt penetrates and burns out the corruption and stays the spread of impurities.

Solarium” - Roman soldiers would get paid with salt.

In Leviticus 2, the sacrifice was salted before it was presented to the Lord.

6. A servant works to have peace with one another.

Jesus said we’re to “have peace with one another.

Have peace” - Greek verb “eirêneuô” - “to cultivate or keep peace.”

Interesting a lesson on being a “servant” transitions to a lesson on marriage.