THE KINGDOM OF GOD VS. THE WORLD
While preaching from the gospel of Mark on Sunday, we have been studying the Gospel on Wednesday evenings. Something I noticed this time that had escaped me when I have studied Mark before is how often the new reality that Jesus was bringing was in direct conflict with the ways of his world, even his religious leaders.
Last week at worship we began to focus on Jesus heading for Jerusalem where he would be killed. Jesus had his disciples alone and asked them first who did people say he was, and then even more importantly what was their opinion. Peter came out with; “You are the Messiah.” “Peter your answer is correct, but I don’t want the word to get out.”
Then Jesus proceeded to tell his disciples; “I am going to be betrayed and killed in Jerusalem, but I will rise again from the dead.” Peter could not handle this; and began to rebuke Jesus. When he thought of Messiah, he saw a powerful military ruler who would kick out the Romans and make Israel the number one power in the world. Jesus ends up telling him to shut up. You are serving Satan, not the Lord.
This week the final trip to Jerusalem continues. Jesus again predicts his betrayal, murder, and resurrection. The disciples still could not understand, but after what they saw happened to Peter, they didn’t say a word or ask any questions.
Then we see how much the disciples were into the ways of the world, rather than understanding the Kingdom of God or how a disciple participates. In the Kingdom of God greatness is found in humility and being a servant. The greatest disciple is servant of all. I believe we have a problem with the difference even today.
When we become clergy, it is suggested we wear a clergy shirt with a white collar.
It is supposed to remind us that we lead by serving. The collar represents being a slave of Christ.
How quickly we can forget. How many of us pastors once we have been in our first congregation for three years attempt to discover what churches are available that are larger and pay more. I remember one pastor in the NC Synod who was always running to be bishop. The word out was stay as far away from this man as possible during the election of a bishop at the Synodical Assembly.
The same problem existed among Jesus’ 12 disciples. They had been arguing on the road over who was the greatest disciple. When Jesus asks them what they have been discussing so vigorously they had to sheepishly admit they have been arguing over who was the greatest disciple.
Jesus lovingly picks up a little child from the crowd and embraces him. His very act was calling into question the pecking order of his time. Women were seen no more than property; their testimony was not even allowed in Court. Children were of even lesser value. It was a part of the world of high infant mortality, and so children had to survive to be of any value.
So, then Jesus says; The real example of greatness is to be looking out for the little ones.
By the time of the early church, it also saw the little ones as new believers. Their faith was so new, so tender, and easily discouraged those mature members of the community were called to be mentors and guardians of the young in faith. There is even a warning if a mature Christian led such new believers astray it would be better for the older Christian to be thrown into the sea.
True wisdom begins with the fear and respect of the Lord. There is no room for arrogance as a disciple of Jesus. We realize how really little we know when it comes to the Lord. Also, we so often do not listen carefully enough to really hear what another person is fully saying. True humility in dealing with other human beings begins with really listening to what another person is saying instead of looking for an opportunity to speak. How often in life have I have wished I had listened more before speaking.
Yes, all of us are redeemed sinners who often have opportunity to repent at leisure what we said or did. But right at the moment that we realize how wrong we have been, Jesus lifts us up and says, “I love you, precious child of God. You are forgiven and given the opportunity to start anew.”
That’s what my Cross, death, and resurrection are all about.
Knowing and living this is the beginning of true wisdom. Amen.