For an athlete, I don’t know if there’s anything greater -- Standing at the top of the podium, flowers in hand, gold medal around the neck, TV cameras in your face and your nation’s anthem playing in the background.
But what’s it take to get there?
Meet Chloe Kim. She began snowboarding around age 4. After a few years of home practice, she went to her first ‘meet’, placed well and her dad realized she was really good. When she turned 8, he quit his job and dedicated himself to being her trainer. Together they went across the country. They trained every day and missed out on the ‘normal high school life’ in the hopes of getting that Olympic glory.
And she did. After 9 years of constant dedication. She won the Women’s Snowboarding Half Pipe. She got the gold medal. She stood on the podium. She received Olympic Glory!
But what about God’s kingdom?
What does it take to get heavenly glory?
Today we’re going to look at that question – and the answer might not be what you expect. Before we do, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Jesus’ Glory
Today’s lesson comes from Mark 9. It’s shortly after the events on the Mount of Transfiguration. We talked about that last week. Jesus went up on a mountain top with Peter, James and John to do some pretty amazing thing. His face started glowing. His clothes started glowing. He spoke with two long dead prophets. He summoned an ethereal cloud and a voice from the cloud spoke, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.” (9:7)
It was amazing and also pretty clear proof that Jesus is God himself.
(If you missed this message, check it out on our website or our podcast. It’s a pretty incredible account from God’s Word.)
But for Peter, James and John – the eyewitnesses to these events? It must have been exhilarating.
I picture them walking with a spring in their step.
Their heads held high.
Their smiles from ear to ear:
“That was insane!!!”
“I know right? There’s no way any of this was a trick. The only one who can do that kind of thing – is God!”
“And this is perfect. Because miracles like that are what we need to really get this Christianity movement going.”
“Yep. All he needs to do is duplicate that moment down at the synagogue and the people will stop giving him grief. They’ll have to believe. There’s no way that you can look at his divinely glowing face, watch him talking to long dead prophets, and hear that incredible voice speak – and NOT be convinced he is God’s one and only Son.”
“Do you think we should talk to him about it? It’s a good plan.”
But before they could approach Jesus, Jesus approached them.
He asked them to all gather on the side of the road.
He wanted to share with them his plan.
Just not the same one --
The Son of man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him. (v.31)
And Jesus kept talking, but the disciples didn’t really hear.
You have the ability to do amazing things. To make it so obvious that you are the Son of God – that you are God himself!
And your plan is to die?
You can make your face shine with heavenly brilliance -- And you’d prefer it drip with blood?
You can summon the dead to life itself – and you’d prefer to let people summon your life to death?
You had God’s incredible voice vouch for you– but you’d prefer to have angry men vouch for your crucifixion?
I thought what happened on the mountain was insane; but, no…this…is insane.
And maybe you can see why they’re thinking like that. Look at what Jesus says, The Son of man, will be delivered into the hands of men. That verb: “Delivered.” That’s something that you use for inanimate objects. The UPS delivers a package. The USPS delivers the mail. The farmer delivers some eggs. The Organic Dairyman delivers some milk. The pizza guy delivers pizza. The late pizza guy delivers cold pizza.
You deliver inanimate barely important objects.
But…Jesus…was saying that he would be delivered.
Treated like some piece of property.
Jesus who created and own all things would be treated like a common eBay shipment.
And when he was in their hands – it wasn’t much better. He would suffer and be killed. Think about that.
The Creator of life itself killed at the hands of his creation.
The Maker of all things made to suffer horrible things.
The one who maintains our heart beats – allowing his heartbeat to stop at the hands of the very heart beats he is maintaining.
This is humiliating.
And Jesus knows this is going to happen. We know he does because this takes place about a year before it happens. And yet – if you follow the story – Jesus still goes to Jerusalem. He does not hide from those angry men. He delivers himself to his murderers.
Why? If that was me –
I’d get out of Dodge (Wherever Dodge is).
But not Jesus.
He keeps going.
He makes the plan happen.
He undergoes extreme humiliation.
The Bible says this, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3: 23) In other words, if you want a divine, gold medal from God – if you want to rise to the podium in his heavenly kingdom. If you want to be in his heavenly graces with the national anthem of the Kingdom of God playing in the background, you just have to be sinless.
It's like Shaun White having to get a 9.75 score to win. Only your score needs to be perfect!
Not hard right?
Unless…you’ve sinned already?
Then, you’ve fallen short.
But the passage continues, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by God’s grace in Christ Jesus.” (3:23b)
In other words:
Jesus did live perfectly.
Then, he changed score cards with you.
He switched his perfect 10 with your -464.
He took the fate that comes with falling short.
And he gave you the glory that comes with rising above.
This was not an accident.
This was part of Jesus’ plan.
Because Jesus is more concerned with your glory than his.
He wants you in his kingdom.
He wants you to experience heaven.
He wants you to dwell in God’s eternal glory.
And if he had to humble himself in order to earn that for you – so be it.
II. A Disciple’s Glory
Back to the disciples. Jesus had just finished his soliloquy about his death, but the disciples were too confused to really ask him about it.
Still…you might expect them to discuss it.
You might expect them to discuss this incredible sacrifice.
To be impressed by this incredible humility.
They were conversing, but not about Jesus:
“Listen Peter. I don’t care if you got to walk on the water. You fell in. I wouldn’t have because I’m better than you.”
“Yea, right Philip! You didn’t even get invited up the mountain. You’re obviously way less important than me.”
“But dude – you tried to build a tent for God. How dumb is that? The only high ranking you have is a high ranking for foolishness.”
“So what --- at least I’m bold. You haven’t even done anything worthy of mention if some book about us was written.”
“He called me Peter. Peter means rock. What did he call you? Yellow bellied fisherman?
“Ya huh…times infinity.”
The argument continued until they reached their destination. It quieted down as they greeted their host for the night and moved into the living room. After all the disciples made themselves comfy – ignoring the tension between them, Jesus entered. He had a question:
“What were you talking about on the road?”
And this is one of those father/child moments. Because he knows what they’re talking about. And they know what they’re talking about. And they also know – it wasn’t a very impressive conversation. It especially looks bad after Jesus had just told them about dying for them.
So…they didn’t answer.
They stared at the ceiling hoping Jesus would forget he had asked a question.
Jesus spoke: “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last and the servant of all.” (v.35)
As in put others first.
As in serve others first.
As in view others better than yourself.
As in worry more about their glory than yours.
But to really get the point across. Jesus looked around the room. Over in the corner – a young child. On the ground. In the dirt. Runny nose and food stains down the front of his shirt.
Jesus lifted him up and put him on his knee.
“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcome me does not welcome me, but the One who sent me.” (v.37)
Do you see Jesus’ point? It’s totally backwards from this world’s perspective.
This world says “Be the best. And if you want to get to be the best, be kind to the popular, the scholars, the politicians, the rich, the famous…”
But Jesus? He says differently.
Imagine putting Jesus’ teaching into a practical scenario. You’re hosting a dinner at your home. In walks a bigwig in town. A politician. He’s in a three-piece suit, drives a Lexus and has a bright designer tie held on by a solid gold tie tack.
His personal security tells you that he’s hungry for some pate.
As you are heading to the kitchen to get the important treat for the important guest – a tug on your pant leg. It’s your 2-year-old nephew. He’s stinky. His hands are grubby. He doesn’t have a gold tie tack, but a slimy pacifier. His lip quivers – his universal sign for hunger.
Who do you feed first?
Important, popular, rich politician?
Or slimy, grubby, crying toddler?
Ignore the caviar;
It’s time to get the Cheerios.
Because glory in God’s kingdom comes in serving others.
Glory in God’s kingdom comes in humility.
It was true about Jesus.
It’s true about you too.
Starting with salvation! Salvation doesn’t come to the one who says, “I’m pretty awesome. I’m the best.” It comes to the one who says, “I’m not that awesome. Jesus is the best. Jesus help me. Jesus save me.”
And it’s the same way in his church. Our goal is not to be the “BEST” at church. We don’t serve just so that we can get our names in 12-point Times New Roman font in the bulletin. No. We serve because Jesus loves us and we serve all others because Jesus loves us.
It’s a different approach than the world’s approach.
But that’s because it’s God’s approach.
III. WHAT NOW?
A few things to keep in mind about humility fellow disciples:
1. Strive to be the VERY Last
That’s an important adverb that Jesus adds on. He says, “Be the very last.” Not “Close to the last” or “farther back than most” but the “very last”
That means, as Jesus’ disciples, we serve all that we come into contact with.
Not just the people we like.
Not just the people who are rich.
Not just the people who are popular and cool.
Jesus desires us to serve all above ourselves.
That means serving the little child.
It means serving the poor.
It means serving the lonely.
It means serving the sick, the sinner, and the jailed.
It means serving the people that the world won’t serve because we aren’t a part of this world – we are a part of God’s world.
2. Serve in Jesus’ Name
Because sometimes it’s very hard to serve others. Especially when they are unthankful, rude and repeatedly awful.
But we don’t serve people because they’ve earned it.
We serve people because Jesus earned it.
And by it – I mean glory for you and me through his death on the cross!
Remember – we had fallen short and he had risen above, but he switched places with us to serve us and bring us glory.
And now he says, “You have glory. You will be in my kingdom. I did this for you – so won’t you give glory to others?”
In short – Make Jesus your motivation to serve others.
3. Remember the Last Part of Jesus’ prophecy
The disciples seemed to miss an important part of Jesus’ prediction. They heard the suffering part. They heard the delivered over to men part. They heard the dying part.
But that wasn’t all he predicted. Jesus said, “The Son of man will be delivered over to the hands of men, he will suffer and die and on the third day he will rise again.” (Mk. 9:31)
The disciples missed that hope then.
But years later they would remember it.
They had seen it fulfilled.
They had seen him completely lack glory on the cross…
And be completely surrounded by it at the empty tomb.
Remember that. Jesus suffered humiliation, but it resulted in glory.
Serve in his kingdom.
Because that same Jesus will bring you that same glory. Amen.