Sermon Notes from 31 October 1993
And they were all amazed at (overwhelmed by) the majesty of God (the might God showed in this deed). But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples, “Let these words sink down into your ears (pay close attention), for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men (handed over to human power).” But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.
Then a dispute arose among them (Instead, they began to discuss) as to which of them would be greatest.
And Jesus, perceiving the thought of (the calculation of) their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.”Now John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.”
Did anyone notice anything unusual about this morning’s Gospel reading?
Since we are preparing for our Annual Parish Meeting and today is Vocation’s Sunday in the OCA, I wanted us to look at a text that speaks to issues of leadership and vocation.
This Gospel lesson shows some sharp contrasts between what our Lord wanted His disciples to focus on and what they wanted to talk about. This is an important lesson for us to remember at our Annual parish meeting.
The story opened with everyone being amazed at the majesty of God because of the miracles Jesus was doing. And while everyone is being so amazed at Jesus’ divine power, the Lord speaks to them about his imminent death on the cross.
While the disciples are all starry eyed looking at Jesus, he tells them almost sternly, “Let these words sink into your ears…” While their hearts are bubbly and excited, Jesus wants them to get a grip on themselves and to PAY ATTENTION! Let my words penetrate into your hearts & not remain out in the air somewhere. The lesson he offered them is the same He offers us – “Yes I am revealing the majesty, glory and power of God to you, and I am going to continue to do so by being nailed to a cross and killed by the Romans.”
It is a hard lesson for us all. While we all like the lessons which promise us prosperity, peace, love, eternal life and God’s unending favor and Kingdom, Jesus tells us that being nailed to the cross is also part of the plan of salvation. There is no other way to the Kingdom then through the cross. We who make decisions at the Parish Meeting must keep this in mind. The way of Christ Jesus is the way of the Cross. A heart breaking love and self-sacrifice are God’s way.
We can note the reaction of the disciples to these words. The disciples immediately get into a dispute as to who is the greatest. They are unwilling to discuss their Lord’s sufferings, but eager to debate their rank. My friends let us in this community learn the lesson that the apostles could not grasp at this point of their ministry.
Our power, our greatness, is not something that derives from our own goodness nor from our good intentions nor even from the good things God has given us. Our power, our opportunity to be great comes from understanding and embracing the mission on which Christ Jesus has sent us. Namely to bring the Gospel to all people, to teach all that the Lord Jesus has taught us, and to baptize all nations. That mission we must always remember, for in that mission is your and my salvation.
As the Lord taught, greatness comes from receiving God’s commission, from doing the will of God, not from any rank or recognition the world or even the church bestows upon us.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta is oft quoted as saying, “The Lord did not call us to be successful but to be faithful.” She has grasped the Lord’s intent, as we should also.
We should not be threatened by the success of others, nor by the fact that others seem to have power we don’t, nor by the fact that others outside of the church may do great and godly deeds, nor by the fact that the world may praise others outside the church for doing good works more then they praise us.
If we remain faithful to the Great Commission that the Lord has given us, we will be doing well, no matter how others succeed or fail, no matter how the world may judge us.
So, Let us hear the word of God and graciously and thankfully do it.
Then let us depart in peace into the world to accomplish God’s will.