II. Introduction: Last week we spoke of what a made an individual great in the eyes of God. It is not position or self-promotion but serving the least: either servants or children. What follows is four other ways to greatness and all of them are put in the context of "A Personal Conversation Between Jesus and His Key Men".
III. Other Ways to Greatness: Accepting. Mark 9:38-50.
Note: We spoke of becoming great through receiving children. Now we will see how accepting can make us great. We are to accept others, responsibility, and suffering, we therefore accept loss of Control.
A. The Second Way: Accepting other Groups: Mark 9:38-40.
Note: After Jesus announces His death in chapter 8, Peter was seen to be spiritually imperceptive. He did not understand the program Jesus was teaching. Now it is the apostle John's turn. Sometimes Christians take turns in misunderstanding the will of God. In chapter 10 it will be John and James'. Remember, these are the three disciples closest to Jesus. Take heart with your own behavior. Even the apostles of our Lord had a hard time being like Jesus. Even the apostles messed up for a while before they understand the program. Death to self, death to our self-centeredness is a hard concept to see or to want to do.
>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:38-40.
Q What did John attempt to do?
An = A person was helping someone get free of demon-possession through the power of Jesus' Name. They were doing exorcisms, and John stopped them
An = they were not part of their group. John seems to have a very controlling view of the ministry of Jesus. If John was a Baptist and they were Presbyterians (or use denominations that fit your group) then John would see those outside his group as all illegitimate.
Q How does Jesus respond? Is He happy?
An = Jesus is not happy with our interference with the work of other sects. "Do not hinder others doing good" is Jesus' basic answer and His reasons for saying so are quite interesting.
1) In verse 39, Jesus, not the group or its beliefs or organization, is the issue. Those others were doing good in Jesus' Name. The power came from His Name, not the disciples' name. He was the key issue. Jesus says they will not soon speak evil of Him. It does not matter what others think of us, our church, or denomination, etc. What matters is the exaltation of Jesus Christ. He saves the world from its sins, not us. It is not us, who control the machinery and operation of the church which save souls.
2) In verse 40, Jesus is saying: "Do not look for enemies."
Note: One key element of all the teaching of 9:33-50 is that of aggressive behavior. Death to the worst part of us has to be done aggressively. Thus we are not passive when we accept other groups we are aggressively deciding not to stop them in their good acts.
B. The Third Way: The Acceptance Of Mercy or Death to Ego. Mark 9:41
>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:41.
Q Is it hard to receive gifts sometimes? How come?
Note: Jesus reminds us that others will be blessed for merely offering us a cup of cold water (A metaphor of performing an act of kindness). We need to be humble enough to be able to receive, because others will be blessed as they attempt to bless us, for we belong to the Lord.
C. The Fourth Way: The Acceptance of Responsibility. Mark 9:42-48.
>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:42-48.
Note: The term "little ones" has been understood by nearly all scholars to mean either little children or young believers. We are responsible before Almighty God to take good care of them. If we hurt them in any manner we will be judged in Hell. These are very frightening verses.
Q Do a lot of you want to eliminate the doctrine of Hell?
An = I do not blame you. The concept of Hell terrifies me, yet Jesus says there is one. If you do not like the concept of Hell, then take it up with Jesus. He speaks over 8 times more about Hell than any other person in the New Testament.
Part of what motivates me to obey Jesus Christ, to be willing to die to self, is so that I can help others to Heaven thus helping keep them out of Hell.
Note: Jesus says even the apostles can wind-up there if they do a certain type of action.
Q How many types of actions are mentioned that could bring condemnation?
An = If our hand, foot or eye causes you to sin. Our sins can cause others, especially young children or young believers to sin. Hypocrisy always does this. Do you know how many people do not go to church because of the hypocrisy of those who do?
Q Why does Jesus give three examples of how to avoid hurting "little ones"? What do each of them represent? (i.e. the hand, the foot and the eye?)
An = (See Lane, p. 348) The Old Testament forbade self mutilation. Jesus does want all serious Christians to be possessed of one foot, one eye and one hand. That is not what He is saying. What He is saying, in the strongest terms possible, is even those things, good things which are valuable to us are not worth losing our souls. We will lose our souls in Hell if we hurt the little ones.
Q Can you give an example of holding on to things that are not bad in themselves but keep us in a position where we hurt little ones?
Note: Perhaps the hand means: "what we do", the foot means" "where we go", and the eye means: "what we see or desire". Any of these, if they hurt a little one are to be disciplined, so as not to hurt another.
Q Is He addressing this threat of Hell to prostitutes and sinners or to the apostles of the Lord?
Q Is Jesus talking to atheists here or to the clergy?
An = His scariest messages often are to leaders, even Christian leaders.
Note: Jesus is saying discipline yourself for the sake of love. We cut things out of lives not to be holy or more sacrificial than others. That is the fuel of spiritual pride, the certain path of spiritual danger. We discipline ourselves so that we do not hurt others. We are disciplined for the sake of our love for the "babies".
RQ What is it that needs to go?
Note: Remember, your own soul's welfare is at stake.
D. The Fifth Way: The Acceptance of Suffering. Mark 9:49-50.
>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:49-50.
Q What do you think these verses mean?
Q What does salt represent in verse 49?
Q What does salt represent in verse 50?
Q Does salt represent different things in each verse?
Note: Some scholars think verse 49 is referring to the salt that accompanied the sacrifices. The allusion being that all of us will be salted with persecution or difficulty. Only those who have not lived long enough are of the belief that suffering will not come to all. Verse 49 appears to be saying, rough times are good. Just as salt with sacrifices is proper, all of us will be seasoned with rough times. I know some of you in this room are definitely struggling with rough times.
Q Could rough times be good?
Q If we understand salt this way, as the seasoning of difficulty or persecution, what does "Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another" mean?
An = If we accept the Lord's dose of suffering or persecution, it can help bring peace with other Christians.
Q Have you experienced this?
>>>> Re-read Mark 9:50.
Q Could Jesus be saying you should not try, illegitimately to get out of suffering, or you will be useless?
An = Some then think that the salt referred to in verse 50 is more concerned with the preservative and seasoning qualities of salt. Once we are not like a true disciple, in that we die to our ego, accept children, others outside our group, the merciful acts of others, suffering and our responsibility to the little ones then we are no longer the salt of the earth.
If we do not act in these ways then we are useless.
Note: The last phrase of "Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another" could very well mean in this context that the disputes about who is the greatest that opened this section (9:33-37) are ended when we are what we are supposed to be. Instead of fighting for position and power we need to be serving, accepting others, accepting our responsibility for the little ones, etc. We need to be too busy being servants and salt for the world to be bothered with our status with others.