March 5, 2017
This is the first Sunday of what the Christian Church refers to as the season of Lent. What a weird word. Do you know where it comes from? Lent or Lenten is an old German word that used to mean spring time a few hundred years ago. It just so happened that in the springtime the Christian church prepares for Holy Week when we celebrate Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. And that means that over the next several weeks we are preparing our hearts for holy week. To do so, we’ll be looking at the gospel of Mark.
Today Mark is going to give us some insight into what it means to be a good leader. And just so you know, all of you are leaders to some degree or another. If you have to make decisions that affect at least one other person besides yourself that makes you a leader. And most of us are under the authority of leaders, whether that’s your boss, your teacher, your supervisor or your parents.
So, would you say that you’ve served under more good leaders or bad leaders? Because the best leaders are generally those who want to see his or her company succeed and looks to set up their employees for success. The best leaders are willing to sacrifice their own time and their own wants for the good of those around them. They aren’t scared to even sacrifice some control so that those they’re responsible for will succeed.
How many leaders have you worked with like that? My guess is not too many. But the ones who do have those qualities are probably your favorites because they made you feel like they were working with you, and sometimes even for you, instead of just demanding things from you.
But those kinds of leaders are hard to come by aren’t they? That’s because most people that rise to the top have one person in mind; themselves. It’s all about them and their glory and it doesn’t matter what happens to everyone else.
But this isn’t just a “them” problem. This is an “us” problem. More often than not we would much rather set ourselves up for success rather than helping others succeed. Leaders have been struggling with this mentality for years and Jesus’ disciples are a prime example of people who needed to realigned with God’s Word. Today Jesus is going to teach us what it means not only to lead but also to follow.
Like I said, we are in Mark 10:32. Jesus has only a few weeks left on earth, and here’s what we’re told:
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.
Jesus was on his way up to Jerusalem for the very last time. His ministry and his life was coming to the climax. This was it. His disciples were following with him along with a crowd of people. Jesus knows what is coming up ahead in Jerusalem, and though he has told his disciples twice already he wants to remind them a third time. So Jesus focuses on his life’s work.
Jesus focuses on his life’s work.
“We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Jesus says, “Time out. Guys come huddle over here. Let’s focus on what’s about to happen.” This is what Jesus’ life was all about. This is it right here. This is the work that he came into the world to do. This is the Christian faith in a nutshell. Jesus came to die and three days later rise again. This is what he wanted his disciples to focus on, and this is what he wants us to focus on. Believing in this is what saves you from your sins. But…
James and John are only focused on themselves.
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
It’s almost unbelievable but James and John were only focused on themselves. Did they even hear what Jesus just told them? Did they understand what he just said? Were they even listening?
I remember one night Anne was pouring her soul out to me on a subject. She was upset about something and she was telling me what was on her heart. I sat there quietly, and then when she was done, my first response was, “Can you pass me my water really quick?” Now, I’ve done some really dumb things as a husband, but that one is pretty high up on the list. Rightfully so.
That’s what the disciples James and John just did. Instead of focusing on the work of Jesus and trying to understand what he was doing and why he was doing it, they made it all about them. Can you picture Jesus’ exasperated face? His disappointed tone as he says, “What do you want me to do for you?” Here’s how they respond:
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
What do they want? Glory and authority. In fact, they partly thought they were entitled to these positions. They had followed Jesus for 3 years now. They left everything to follow him. Their wives and children were at home. They left their career to follow him. Jesus’ life was coming to a climax and they knew it. It was time to cash in. They couldn’t wait any longer.
What James and John wanted was to go back to their high school reunion and have people gushing over them as to how successful their life has been. They wanted people to say, “Wow! James and John! You have that position of authority? You’ve really done good for yourself.” Their whole motivation for following Jesus was ultimately self-glory seeking. But they weren’t the only ones with this sinful attitude.
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.
The rest of the disciples were indignant at those two. They were outraged not because James and John asked such a foolish question, but because they were all thinking the same thing but were late on asking! They all were seeking glory. They were all seeking authority. They all wanted to be served. Look at what happens when we have the attitude “it’s all about me.” It only causes problems.
So here Jesus is. He just got done pouring out his heart and soul to them telling them what is about to happen, and now he has to put out this petty fire. And here’s what he wants.
Jesus wants us to give up seeking glory and simply serve others
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
Jesus explains to them that this isn’t how Christians act. Christians don’t look for glory and honor and authority. They don’t look to gain a high position to boss people around. Instead, a Christian looks to serve the needs of others.
So what is your motivation for things you do? Let me tell you how this looks in my life.
I need to constantly be asking what my motivation is for doing ministry. What motivates me to do outreach? Is it because I want to serve people with the gospel? I want them to focus on Jesus’ life work that they may have faith in him? Or do I do outreach because I have to answer to a board and I want to hear praises from them on how well I’m doing? Do I write a sermon with the motivation that all of you compliment and tell me how great of a preacher I am, or do I want to serve you and through the preaching of God’s Word your faith is strengthened?
So how about you? What’s your motivation for the way you lead your kids? Is it so others tell you how wonderful of a parent you are, or do you lead your kids to simply serve their needs that they might succeed? What about in your marriage? At work, are you motivated to work so that you get recognized, or do you work serving God with the abilities he’s given you?
It subtly shifts into our views of church as well. We begin to think church is just here to serve my needs and my family’s needs instead of looking for ways in which we can serve. When we do serve at church we want some recognition for what we’ve done instead of simply serving that the gospel might be spread.
This mentality creeps into our relationship with Jesus too. Instead of reading God’s Word to focus on what he did for us, we sometimes read the bible to serve our needs. Almost like a self-help book on how to live a better life. We become entitled with Jesus, and we say things like, “Look at everything I’ve done for you. I’m not a bad person. I haven’t done anything. I’m not like the rest of the unbelieving world. Why am I going through this? Should you serve me Jesus and grant me some glory?”
This isn’t a God pleasing attitude. This isn’t how God created us to be. He created us to serve him and serve others. This self-motivation for glory is sinful. So what does Jesus do?
Jesus refocuses them on himself as both the example and the ransom.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
What motivated Jesus? Your needs. Your success. That’s all he had in mind. And he willingly served your needs. Jesus came to this earth and he had every right to demand honor and glory. He deserved every knee to bow in honor of him. He earned the praise from every single tongue. Not only that, but because he is God he had all power to make it happen. Just like our reading from Philippians said.
He is the very nature God. He is God. Yet, instead of using that to his own advantage he made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant and being made like us. Instead of staying on his throne, he became a servant. Instead of holding on to the glory and power that he rightly deserved, he gave up his position of authority and came to serve your needs. Instead of condemning you, he paid the price that you and I ultimately deserve. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross.
But why? Why did he do it? Why did he give up his position? He gave it all up to ransom you. To ransom means to buy the freedom of a slave or prisoner at great personal expense and cost. What was the cost?
“We are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
He gave up his position and paid the ransom. Instead of asking us, demanding of us that we pay him the price for our sins, Jesus paid the price for you, in your place. And he did so by giving up his position in heaven, going to the cross, and rising again on the third day. And that’s what we want to leave with today.
Jesus gladly gave up his position of glory to pay the ransom price to have you.
Jesus came into this world giving up his position of glory in heaven so that you may have his position in heaven. He came into this world to pay the ransom to have you. The glories of heaven are now yours because Jesus came to serve your needs. That is what our leader was willing to do. They put others needs before their own even at great sacrifice to themselves. That’s what our Savior did. What a joy it is to serve a leader like that.