Sermon Outline On Mark 9:30-37
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
In 1941 the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello performed a routine called “Who’s on First” It began something like this:
A.- You know, strange as it may seem, they give ball players nowadays very peculiar names… Now, on the St. Louis team Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third…
C.- That’s what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the St. Louis team.
A.- I’m telling you. Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t know is on third.
C.- You know the fellows’ names?
C.- I mean the fellow’s name on first base.
C.- The fellow playin’ first base.
C.- The guy on first base.
A.- Who is on first.
C.- Well, what are you askin’ me for?
A.- I’m not asking you — I’m telling you. Who is on first.
C.- I’m asking you–who’s on first.
A.- That’s the man’s name!
Right now some of you may be thinking what Lou Costello said at the end of this routine. “I don’t know. And I don’t care.”
To which Bud replied, “Oh, that’s our shortstop.”
At this point you may be thinking, “He’s gone off his rocker.” I couldn’t help but think of this comedy routine as you read today’s scripture lesson from Mark’s gospel. It just seemed to me that the disciples were about as confused as Costello was and maybe you as you heard me try to do both parts.
The question is… Who’s on First?
Today’s scripture lesson comes in three parts. Jesus predicts his suffering and death. The disciples respond. Jesus gives instruction on discipleship. This three part story occurs three times in Mark’s gospel. Three times Jesus predicts his passion and death. Three times the disciples are confused and don’t understand. Three times Jesus teaches about discipleship.
The story we read today is the second time Jesus tries to tell his disciples about his death and resurrection. We find Jesus and his disciples walking through Galilee on the way to Capernaum. Jesus has arranged it so no one would know their plans, so Jesus could have this time alone with his disciples. Jesus had plans to teach them about his coming suffering & death. As they walked Jesus shares with them the news of his future and theirs. He told them that he would be betrayed, he would be killed, and he would rise again.
The scripture says, “They did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.” No wonder they did not understand. No wonder they were afraid to ask him. What were they doing while Jesus shared this “Heavy” news? They were arguing over who was the greatest.
Fred Craddock says, “their obsession with position and power rendered them incapable of comprehending, much less of accepting, Jesus’ word about himself.”
When they reach Capernum, Jesus asks them what they were arguing about on the road. They were silent Probably because they knew how foolish they had been. How foolish it was to argue over who would be the greatest in the kingdom.
They did not speak, but Jesus knew. Jesus sits down and calls the twelve to gather around. There is to be another teaching session. Hopefully one that they understand this time. Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” The answer to being first is not Selfish Ambition The answer to being first is Servanthood.
“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” In a nutshell — This is discipleship. Those who call themselves followers of Jesus, those who are disciples of Jesus, are those who put themselves last, others first, and serve all.
Jesus brings his point home by taking a little child, putting the child in the midst of these adults, and placing the child in his own arms. Jesus then tells them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
Jesus said, “Be a servant to all.” “Be a servant even to a child.” In a day of organizations like Child Protective Services and a day when children can sue their parents. This action by Jesus is more difficult to understand.
In the day of Jesus the child was of little value, worthless, a second class citizen at best. They were a burden, dependent, helpless, nonproductive. The child is the classic image of the powerless, those without claim and without capacity to reward or repay.
And yet the disciple of Jesus is to attend to even these, welcoming them, serving them. Being First means serving the helpless, worthless, powerless? More than that, being a disciple of Jesus means serving the helpless, worthless, powerless! To be the church of Jesus Christ means serving the helpless, worthless, powerless!
It strikes me that we often meet people who need help. Grown people who get themselves in terrible situations. It strikes me that in many ways some of these people act more like a child than an adult. BUT Jesus said, “Be a servant to all,” and lifted up a child as an example of “All.”
We serve not because we expect a given response. We serve because we are expected to serve — this IS the life of the kingdom.
Are we full of our own selfish ambition? Do we give of ourselves out of that which God as trusted to us because it suits our needs? Or do we give so that we can be servants to all ‘“ even the helpless, worthless, or powerless.
There was a conversation with an active layman, who mentioned, “You preachers talk a lot about giving, but when you get right down to it, it all comes down to basin theology.” “Basin theology? What’s that?” The layman replied, “Remember what Pilate did when he had the chance to acquit Jesus? He called for a basin and washed his hands of the whole thing.
But Jesus, the night before his death, called for a basin and proceeded to wash the feet of the disciples. It all comes down to basin theology: Which use will we choose? Do we wash our hands or another’s feet?
Who’s on first? — The one who serves others in the name of Jesus.