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Do you get it?
If you’re like me, you get it sometimes, but not always. Or you get it in part, but not in whole. What I mean is, I’m more likely to serve when other people around me are serving, but not when I have to initiate it. I like to serve when it fits my schedule, my gifts, and my personality—I don’t like to serve when it’s inconvenient or feels awkward.
Similarly, I get service in part because I know God has called me to bring His Kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven, but I don’t get it in whole because I am not willing to lay down my busy schedule, my dollars and cents, or my personal priorities for the sake of others.
Let’s be real, true service takes sacrifice.
Raise your hand in here if you have played a high school sport. [People raise hands]. Okay, so you know if you are chatting with your friends during practice and you don’t notice your coach is yelling from across the gym or field—you’re probably in trouble. Now if that happened more than one or two times, on my football team we got what was called “A lot of love at the end of practice.” In other words, bear-crawls—the kind where we run on all fours in full equipment the length of the field back and forth until the lactic acid in our triceps and hamstrings burned like fire.
It was actually during some punitive bear crawls one day that God moved my heart in the area of sacrifice, service, and how they intersect with influence and power. While some may be pretty mad at their coach for putting them through the wringer, I experienced quite a different situation. As I plodded along, breathing heavily I looked over to my left to check my spacing and saw Coach Langs on all fours bear-crawling with us. Instead of being mad at Coach, I remember feeling a mixture of “this guy is nuts” and “why in the world would a coach do that?” But when I met Jesus, it all made sense.
Today we continue our series Easter Logic where we attempt to look at the differences between how God sees things and the way we see things. As we journey toward our Easter Celebration, we hope you come to find that as we align our perception of reality with God’s perception of reality, we will find a new kind of life—Kingdom Life, true life. Coach Langs was a little nutty for enduring the same punishments as his players, but he was also a little nutty for taking kids in from troubled homes, for inviting any and all who want to attend Sunday Night dinner over to his home, and for sending me a birthday card every year with Scripture and encouragement. In fact this month at 29 years old, coach sent me a card that simply said “Stay focused on the Cross and those tough right choices.” You see, in the world’s logic, power comes through position: “I’m the coach so do what I say” But in the Kingdom of God, in Easter Logic: “Power comes through Service” Many players would nominate their coach for Coach of the Year, but I would lay down my life for Coach Langs.
Turn in your Bibles or Apps to Mark chapter 9. Again, that’s Mark 9 and if you’re using a Sanctuary Bible from the back, that’s page 844. We’ll be looking at Mark chapters 9 and 10 this morning. These two chapters are an adventure in missing the point. The disciples are having difficulty with this Easter Logic.
Let me first provide a backdrop. You see in Mark 9:1-13 Jesus is transfigured—meaning His divine glory was shown—right in front of Peter, James, and John. These three realized without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the real deal Messiah and Son of God. Keep that in mind. He is the Powerful One. Then they went down the mountain on through Galilee and in verses 30 through 32 Jesus gets pretty dire with them saying He is going to be delivered into the hands of men and killed. So already you see this odd correlation between Jesus’ power displayed in the transfiguration and His demonstration of service in being put to death. And that’s exactly when the disciples first miss the point. Let’s read verses 33-35
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35 ESV)
Jesus spells it out pretty clear. But, just like you and I, it doesn’t sink in. Still, the logic of this world is permeating their perspective and the disciples believe that power comes through position, not humility, surrender, and service.
Let’s check out Mark 10, beginning in verse 32. Here, Jesus and His band of disciples, along with a crowd are nearing Jerusalem. Is this when Jesus is going to display an awesome display of power over the authorities that be? Let’s find out.
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:32-34 ESV)
What? This is not the time for an ambiguous parable, this is the time for action! The disciples still didn’t get it. And the Gospel writer Mark purposely butts up to Jesus’ death prophecy for the second time a story of how the disciples can’t comprehend power through service. Let’s read the conclusion in this adventure of missing the point following the passage we just read.
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.”
And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:35-45 ESV)
Power by position or power through service? Influence through intimidation or influence through sacrifice? James and John saw Jesus’ power in the transfiguration, they believed He was going to bring His Kingdom down on top of Jerusalem with them judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19), but they couldn’t comprehend the Easter Logic—that the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve. Or as it was once said:
The served of all, came to be the servant of all. His last act on earth was the grandest service ever beheld by the universe of God—“He gave His life a ransom for many.”
An interesting part of the passage we read is that Jesus doesn’t give a harsh rebuke to James and John. And Bible Scholars agree it was because Jesus knew they would get it in the end. You see James and John are the bookends to the martyrdom of the twelve apostles. In Acts 12, James indeed drinks the cup Jesus drank as King Herod has him killed by sword. Then John, after watching every one of his closest brothers and companions killed on Jesus’ behalf, is sentenced to prison on Patmos Island where he lived the life of a martyr until his death.
It was of course the service of these men which turned the world upside down. They inspired the Early Church to serve the poor, care for the orphans and widows, and speak boldly the message of coming judgment and available forgiveness. The Church has spread throughout the ages transforming whole communities and converting the most despicable of humans. Jesus was the one who embodied this Easter Logic on the Cross and empowered His followers to live it through the Holy Spirit.
We now see this principle at work, when a powerful nation rises against another powerful nation, the result bloodshed. But when a powerful nation comes against Jesus Christ and His Church, the result is transformation of that nation. Because we don’t rise with positional power, we rise with power through sacrificial service. True power comes through service. It is unstoppable.
But what’s that look like in day to day life?
If you want to become an influencer like Jesus, to be part of turning the world upside down like James and John, you’ve got to be ready to make sacrifices. Remember, true service takes sacrifice. Here are five areas I think we need to make daily decisions of sacrifice:
Easter Logic says power comes through service. Coach Langs did bare crawls with his players, Jesus went willingly to the Cross, James died by the sword, and John watched them all die and finished his days sealed in a cell. If you want to make a difference in this world, that’s how it happens. You’re not going to change any lives by playing it safe and keeping comfortable.
Band, you may come up at this time. What makes us able to live a life of sacrifice and service is our unshakeable belief in God’s goodness and love toward us. We can risk our reputation, finances, spiritual convenience, health, and dreams because He always comes through in the end. As we come to the closing of our service, we are going to sing the song One Thing Remains. The final verse says
In death, In life, I’m confident and covered by the power of Your great love. My debt is paid, there’s nothing that can separate my heart from Yourgreatlove.
Let’s make this song our prayer this morning as we trust in Him while sacrificing ourselves to influence others. Please stand and join me in responding to God’s Word.
Church, Jesus said …whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Please receive the benediction this morning from the brother John’s 1 Letter:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18 ESV)
Go with God.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 83). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.