More important to get the big picture and how it all hangs together in this section
Overall context: Jesus has turned his focus to the Cross
- Headed to Jerusalem in a physical sense to go to the cross
- Oriented his teaching to focus on his inner circle of disciples
- Emphasizing to them the significance of His coming death and resurrection
- Training his disciples to assume leadership when he departs this earth
Cost of Discipleship
- Deny self; Take up your cross; Follow Me – what will that involve?
- Servanthood; Suffering; Persecution
Immediate Context – Issue of Greatness in the Kingdom
Disciples were driven by the motivation of Competition – each wanted to be the best; they wanted their lives to count
Last week we saw how that motivation for competition manifested itself in their relationship with one another as insiders – as members of the inner circle of Christ’s team of Apostles
This week we will see how that motivation for competition manifests itself in their relationship to ones they view as outsiders – ones who do not embrace all of the same distinctives as they do; ones who march to the beat of a different drummer and don’t fall into step with their marching band;
This message is especially important to us as we experience a very segmented denominational structure within the overall Church of Jesus Christ – we have many camps – and we are always in danger of looking with disdain on those who are outside our particular group
- We hold to certain distinctives – like believer baptism
- We all have close friends or even family members that hold to infant baptism
How should we relate to one another?
- We hold to the distinctive of plurality of elder government
- We are in the minority here; most churches have a Senior Pastor structure with a major differentiation between his role and that of other church leaders
How should we relate to one another?
Have you ever thought how sad it would be if our distinctives were so narrow and confining and even off base that Jesus himself would not be able to join our church and satisfy our membership criteria?? You can’t embrace both infant baptism and believer baptism – they are not both correct
Jesus is not asking us to throw away all distinctives and water down our commitment level to the lowest possible denominator so that we can all be together organizationally in one group – Instead He urges us to study and develop biblical convictions and to live out those convictions
Yet the spirit in which we interact with other genuine believers is very important – this lesson is crucial for people like us that are so zealous for truth; that place such a high priority on our biblical convictions
THE PATHWAY TO GREATNESS IS RESPECTING DIVERSITY IN KINGDOM MINISTRY FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE CROSS
I wanted to begin this morning by considering some famous quotes on the subject of Greatness – what makes someone attain to Greatness? What is the pathway or the secret to Greatness?
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Greatness comes in various forms; you need to embrace it, not fear it
— William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.” Be the best YOU (sounds more like the Joel Osteen self-help approach)
— Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
“All greatness of character is dependent on individuality. The man who has no other existence than that which he partakes in common with all around him, will never have any other than an existence of mediocrity. “ Be the unique YOU — James F. Cooper
Probably closest to the truth – but still not capturing the biblical perspective: “A great man is always willing to be little.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nothing wrong with having ambition and wanting to make a difference with your life – in fact there is something very wrong with not caring about greatness and excellence and just being comfortable with mediocrity
It is a matter of our motivation and whether we are self-centered or God-centered
What does Jesus teach and what did Jesus practice with respect to the Pathway to Greatness?
GREATNESS IN THE KINGOM MUST BE MEASURED FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE CROSS
In my business, people bring us problems all day long. Their heavy duty truck or their bus is broken-down and won’t function as intended. They have been counting on that vehicle to make them money and now it has let them down.
Customers have the same set of needs:
– They have a problem they need solved – They can’t solve it themselves because they don’t have their own shop with techs or they don’t have the expertise or time to make this particular repair;
They need us to be Available with the resources they require
– They have a problem they need solved NOW — sense of urgency because the situation is costing them money and productivity – They want to get back on the road as quickly and painlessly as possible;
They need us to Care
– They have a problem they need solved with finality — need a solution that will fix the problem the first time so that it stays fixed with no comebacks;
They need us to be Skilled
Customers can put up Obstacles to a Good Outcome:
– Usually they are very demanding – not very helpful
– Sometimes they are unrealistic – Want it fixed immediately and don’t want to pay what the repair is worth.
– Sometimes they refuse to accept the diagnosis – We will get another opinion or try to limp along and hope it is not as bad as you say. As if they were the experts even though they took it to the repair shop in the first place because they were unable to fix it themselves
STAY PLUGGED IN TO THE POWER OF GOD VIA THE HONEST PRAYER OF FAITH
It’s possible to say a lot of nice things about Jesus without fully grasping Who He Is. Just look at the Christological teaching in liberal Protestant seminaries across our country. It’s possible to say a lot of nice things about Jesus without fully understanding Why He Suffered and Died on the Cross. For the most part, you don’t hear the world trashing Jesus. They certainly use His name in vain all of the time … but when they are asked their impressions of Jesus, they have favorable things to say. But the key is: they don’t Get It.
In the Gospels we witness the growing understanding of the disciples as they truly Get It. In this crucial mid-section of Mark’s Gospel, the disciples of Jesus have just testified to His Messianic identity as the Christ. They have been introduced to His Mission which will involve suffering and death and challenged to embrace for themselves the heavy cost of discipleship. To:
- Renounce Self
- Take up their Cross
- and Follow the Master.
At this point they needed words of reassurance — Because they still struggled with understanding the pathway of rejection and suffering and even the prospect of physical death for the Messiah. They also did not grasp the reality of the soon-to-come resurrection. So we saw last week in 9:1 that Jesus Reassured them regarding the Mission of the Messiah – He will be victorious and will send the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in power to accomplish the spread of the gospel of the kingdom. So here Jesus Reassures them regarding His Identity as He walks them through this amazing mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration to reassure them that death for the Messiah is essential in order for the end game to be glorious.
THE SON OF MAN MUST SUFFER IN ORDER FOR THE SON OF GOD TO BE SEEN IN THE FULL RADIANCE OF HIS GLORY
The disciples of Jesus now understand His Messianic identity as the Christ. They have been introduced to His Mission of suffering and rejection and death and resurrection. They have been challenged to embrace the heavy cost of discipleship. They have even been graciously given some fundamental reasons to align themselves with Jesus Christ and Renounce Self, Take up their Cross and Follow the Master. The final accounting at the Second Coming is put before them: The Son of Man will come “in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” But after hearing what to their ears would have amounted to a very difficult challenge (a far cry from the type of kingdom experience they have been anticipating in the short term), they needed words of reassurance to give them courage and boldness in facing anticipated suffering and persecution.
Look at how the words of reassurance directly correspond in chiastic structure to the revelation that has just been communicated:
A1. (8:27-30) Clarity Regarding the Person of Jesus Christ
B1 (8:31-33) Clarity Regarding the Mission of Jesus Christ
C (8:34-38) Challenge Regarding the Heavy Cost of Discipleship – Allegiance to His Person and Mission
B2 (9:1) Reassurance Regarding the Mission of Jesus Christ
A2 (9:2-13) Reassurance Regarding the Person of Jesus Christ
Remember that the chapter and verse divisions were added at a later point in time — not part of the original inspired scripture. While very helpful, they are not always positioned at the best point – such is the case with 9:1. It really is tied more directly to what precedes. The disciples have been challenged to follow the way of the cross which will lead to suffering for all true disciples and violent and painful death from persecution for many of the Apostles standing before Jesus. How can they take courage and act boldly moving forward – knowing that they may soon “taste death” because of their allegiance to Jesus Christ?
Remember also the concept of “Already and Not Yet” (sermon by Joseph Greer – first time I have borrowed from him). We need to know that there is a sense in which we already are living under the dominion of Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God; while there yet remains a future aspect to the kingdom that has yet to be realized. This dual nature of “Already and Not Yet” must be maintained. Very important text … but very enigmatic . . . very difficult to interpret . . . many good scholars with a wide range of interpretations – can’t be dogmatic here . . . but the application is clear.
THE HEAVY COST OF DISCIPLESHIP PALES IN CONTRAST TO THE MIGHTY DISPLAY OF POWER IN THE COMING KINGDOM OF GOD
Remember the flow of the passage in this key heart of the gospel of Mark — chapter 8: Confessing Who Jesus really is = testimony of Peter = “Thou are the Christ.” Understanding His Messiahship led to Christ teaching his disciples about His Mission – the key elements of Suffering, Rejection, Death, Resurrection – teaching these things clearly.
Now Jesus is going to move to the true meaning of Discipleship.
Huge debate in Christian circles today over whether the category of “Disciple” is a subset of Christians or synonymous with Christians. If you are not a disciple are you not even a Christian? Or can you be some type of carnal Christian and be on your way to heaven and just not have made the higher commitment to following Jesus as your Lord? Context here is clear that the downside of not embracing discipleship is the loss of eternal life
Mark 10:17, 30 – the reward is eternal life (not some crown for being an elite believer);
John 8:12 “to have the Light of Life”; to attach yourself to Jesus by faith
Alan Carr: Jesus would have been a public relations manager’s nightmare! Every time He began to attract a large following, Jesus would up the ante. He would tell them how high the cost of following Him would be and the crowds would vanish. Jesus did this so that people would know the truth. He wanted them to know that it would not be cheap or easy to be His disciples . .
THE REDEMPTIVE MISSION OF JESUS CHRIST CAN ONLY BE EMBRACED BY RELINQUISHING HUMAN AUTONOMY AND SUBMITTING TO DIVINE LORDSHIP AS A GENUINE DISICPLE [WHICH WILL INCLUDE REJECTION AND SUFFERING]
As soon as the disciples of Jesus come to grips with Who He really is (confession of Peter), Jesus immediately transitions to explaining very clearly to them His intended Mission. Close connection between these 2 halves of Mark’s Gospel – Luke does not even begin a new sentence here (9:22).
Parunak: three predictions of his passion (all given in private to His disciples): 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34. Now that they recognize him as Messiah, they are ready to learn a new side to his work.
John Grassmick: The structure of this section (8:31 – 10:52) revolves around three Passion predictions: 8:31-9:29; 9:30-10:31; 10:32-52. Each unit includes a prediction (8:31; 9:30-31; 10:32-34); a reaction by the disciples (8:32-33; 9:32; 10:35-41); and one or more lessons in discipleship (8:34-9:29; 9:33-10:31; 10:42-52).
Alan Carr: For centuries, the Jews had looked for God to send a Deliverer. They anticipated a great military leader who would defeat Israel’s enemies, restore righteousness to the land, and who would purify and restore Temple worship to its ancient glory, Jer. 33:15; Eze. 37:23-24. The Jews believed that this deliverer would achieve his goals through the force of arms. They were looking for a fighter, a revolutionary and an insurrectionist.
Who is Jesus and Why did He come to this earth – if you understand the answer to those 2 questions you have true spiritual insight.
THE REDEMPTIVE MISSION OF JESUS CHRIST CAN ONLY BE EMBRACED BY RELINQUISHING HUMAN AUTONOMY AND SUBMITTING TO DIVINE LORDSHIP [WHICH INCLUDES REJECTION AND SUFFERING]
“The Road to the Final Four” has a nice ring of finality to it – the wrapping up of the college basketball season – the 68 team tournament that determines the ultimate champion. How is your NCAA bracket doing? Have you picked mostly winners? Quite a few surprises already – like always. When most things come to an end, they are actually over. That is why you see the coach of Michigan State, Tom Izzo, so emotional as his team gets upset and he deals with the reality that the existence of this team is over. It has been a special group of young men that he has loved coaching – but this team has no future going forward as a team. This is the end of the line.
As we come to our final sermon on the 66 chapters of Isaiah, the eloquent and gifted prophet is wrapping up many of the themes that we have been tracking through the book. The last chapter especially focuses on the alternating emphasis between The Culmination of Judgment and Salvation In the End Times. Each paragraph goes back and forth.
Oswalt: When one observes the book as a whole, the interchange between judgment and hope is unmistakable. . . Here this interchange occurs for the last time, with 15-17 (and v. 24) depicting the fate of those both within and beyond the Israelite community who persist in rebellion against God, and vv. 18-23 depicting the salvation of the nations that will occur as a result of the revelation of God’s glory in both judgment and redemption. Finally, as far as this book is concerned, judgment and hope are inseparable. It is out of judgment that hope emerges, but hope never removes the potential and the reality of judgment.
But there is something very unique about this discussion of end times – of God bringing to ultimate fulfillment His purposes for this world and His program for His elect nation – as well as His program for outreach to the Gentile nations.
WHEN THINGS COME TO AN END THEY WILL CONTINUE ON FOREVER – EITHER IN A STATE OF RECREATION AND ETERNAL LIFE OR A STATE OF CORRUPTION AND ETERNAL SUFFERING
This book very clearly presents an alternative view on the topic of the teaching of the Lord Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage. I must acknowledge right from the beginning that Van Parunak is a personal friend and someone who shares my convictions regarding church government — so my objectivity in this analysis might be open to question. But his credentials as a Biblical scholar and a Hebrew scholar in particular are impeccable. I have used his materials throughout my sermon series on the book of Isaiah to great benefit.
This topic has certainly been a thorny one for Christian pastors — given the increasing practice of both divorce and remarriage in all types of church contexts. As Parunak wisely advises: “Long ago, a wise Bible teacher counseled me and other young men who hoped to serve the church of God, ‘Be sure to figure out in advance what you believe about divorce and remarriage. Sooner or later, you will have to counsel people who are embroiled in this tragic situation. It’s far better that you figure out what you believe now, while you can be objective with the Scriptures, than when you are deeply immersed in the emotional trauma of those you love.'” But having recognized that, at whatever stage you find yourself in Christian ministry, you still need to be open and submissive to what the Bible has to say on the subject.
The final chapters of Isaiah have reflected the alternating emphasis of God’s judgment upon His enemies and His ultimate comfort and blessing for the reborn nation of Israel in the last days. Our section for today is one of comfort and blessing – giving hope for the ultimate future of the nation. God takes such pains to emphasize that He will surely accomplish what seems so unlikely – it is sad to see how many believers have discarded any hope in God’s future program for the nation of Israel. Yes, it is unheard of; Yes, it seems impossible; But God has pledged to come through on all of His promises for His elect nation.
When we look at the suffering and pressure in our present circumstances, we can become down in the mouth and forget God’s glorious end game strategy for us. That is why Peter instructs believers to focus on their heavenly inheritance and live with eternity in view:
1 Peter 1:3-9
Constable: The mood now reverts back to hope (cf. 65:17-25). In contrast to all the bereavement and deprivation that Jerusalem had experienced and would yet experience (cf. 26:16-18; 37:3; 51:18-20), the ultimate future of the city and its inhabitants remained bright.
Mother Day’s passage comes early this year:
Parunak: There are two things that a mother does for her children. This paragraph crowns the metaphor by describing Jerusalem as the mother of her people. It has two halves, corresponding to two facets of the maternal relation: giving birth (vv. 7-9), and sustaining her offspring (vv. 10-13). Each ends (vv. 9, 12-13) with a statement attributed to the Lord.
JOY IN GOD’S KINGDOM ON EARTH —
REBORN JERUSALEM WILL PROVIDE AMPLE SUSTENANCE TO GOD’S PEOPLE