June 16 – Jesus Turns Us Upside Down

Mark 9: 30 – 50 NLT

Jesus Again Predicts His Death

“Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, 31 for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to
them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” 32 They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.”

This is the second time Jesus has told his disciples he is going to die, and this time he mentions he will be betrayed. Today, we know that Jesus was betrayed by one of those twelve men he was travelling with. The disciples don’t ask him any questions. They heard exactly what he said, but a possible answer to what he meant was just too scary. Have you ever been in a situation like that? Has your partner or a close friend ever said something that you chose to ignore because you were afraid to talk about it? Afraid it might mean there was some kind of problem between the two of you? Have you ever not questioned a doctor about what he said because you were afraid to face a serious health condition? I suspect we have all been in situations where we’ve preferred not to know all the details. It was just too intimidating. I have some empathy for those disciples. They hoped Jesus was bringing in a new time for Israel, and death didn’t fit into their picture.

“The Greatest in the Kingdom

33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

Now there was an embarrassing conversation. Can you picture them walking along a dusty road walking a fair distance to go from the Caesarea Philippi area to Capernaum? What were they talking about? Do you think they may have been asking questions to Peter, James and John about what happened on the mountain? Maybe one of those three may have said something about they can’t share what happened. Would Peter have talked about how he first figured out that Jesus was the Messiah? Would James or John have asked them how they couldn’t manage to cast out the demon from the boy? Jesus knew what they were talking about, and one of those things was – who was the greatest?

Now, you likely haven’t talked with a close friend about how you could have done a better job than someone else where you volunteer. … Or have you? Have you ever complained about not being chosen for promotion since you are sure you could have done a better job? Let’s be honest about what goes on in our heads – things we keep to ourselves, but nevertheless think about. The people we privately criticize because we don’t think they are doing a good job. The things we think we do super well, and hope they will lead to a better job, or a leadership position. Then there are thoughts we have about who is really important in this world, in Windsor Essex County. Who do we look up to? Who do we admire? Are they the leaders in business, the politicians, the wealthy in our community, the best educated like university professors, pro athletes, famous movie stars or musicians? What do we/I value most? What do we/I think shows success?

Jesus says the road to success is being a servant. To illustrate it, he holds a young child. In their culture, children had no status at all – men definitely did, women a little, but children none. This idea of serving being the most important is completely upside down in our 2020 culture’s thinking. People who clean our workplaces, people who serve us in fast-food outlets, garbagemen, people who load the shelves of grocery stores at night … we don’t even think about those people who make our lives easier. We likely appreciate the people who work hard behind the scenes for us, but that’s not what we would call success.

Steve Wilmhurst in his book, A Ransom for Many, talks about Jesus definition of success:

“For Jesus, ‘success’ will mean being nailed to a cross and then hung up to die. ‘Admiration’ will mean public humiliation and abuse – or to use the biblical expression, he is ‘despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering’ (Isaiah 53:3). For Jesus, being ‘in control’ will mean letting himself be betrayed by one of his closest friends, allowing himself to be totally helpless, refusing even to speak in his own defence. It is ironic that on the day Jesus explains what lies ahead, his disciples pass their time on the road fighting over who is the greatest. Their arguments that day, and their misunderstandings, simply make him a still lonelier figure, all the more isolated, as he sets his face to go on to Jerusalem and strides on ahead. It’s often the sheer, persistent nobility of the Lord Jesus that amazes me the most!”

“Using the Name of Jesus

38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”

39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.”

In this world, there are two groups – those who believe in Jesus, God’s son, and those who don’t. The disciples are concerned about someone who is acting on Jesus’ behalf, but isn’t one of them. Jesus is clear about this. This person is on Jesus’ side. We need to be accepting of anyone who is a Christ follower. They may not belong to our church denomination, they may not be part of our culture or ethnic group, they may not be in our socio-economic group – they could be anyone. We accept anyone who is a Christ follower.

42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’ “For everyone will be tested with fire. (reference to Isaiah 66: 24) 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”

Jesus is very clear about the consequences of deciding to put sin first before following Jesus. If sin rules our lives, the consequences are horrendous. You could live a life pushing to get to the top, walking over other people, cheating behind the scenes – you may look so successful, but in eternity, that gets you nowhere.

Jesus also talks about salt. In his time, salt was so important. Remember they didn’t have access to refrigeration or many of the preserving methods we use today. Salt is what kept foods safe to eat. It also added flavour to food. God’s instructions to us appear to be twofold. One is to be concerned about keeping people healthy and well – introducing them to Jesus and life with God. The other is to be known in this world as people who are at peace with themselves and with others – those folks who love everyone and add ‘flavour’ to life.

These last verses in Mark 9 really hit us hard in 2020. What do I personally consider success to be? How high on my list of priorities do I put God? How high on my list is serving others? Am I a person who is at peace with myself? Am I known as a person who brings peace and calm to the situations I am in? Wow! A lot to think about!

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