The Humbling of the Twelve (Mark Sermon 45)
March 12, 2023 | Andy Davis
Life in the Spirit, Humility
Pastor Andy Davis preaches on Mark 9:33-41, a passage that exposes the pride of the disciples and Jesus’ powerful efforts to cure them of it.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Turn in your Bibles to Mark 9:33-41. As we look at this passage this morning, we're looking at a vital question, what is the nature of true greatness? What does it mean to be truly great as a human being? The Bible has not left us in the dark concerning this. Isaiah 66:2, one of my favorite verses, God says, "This is the one I esteem. He who is humble and contrite in spirit and who trembles at my word." God delights in humility in his people. Delights in it. In order, therefore, to make us great, He must humble us. He must do a work of humbling in us. He must to some degree lay us low because of our pride.
"God delights in humility in his people."
All the work of God in his people is a work of humbling first and then exaltation. This is a consistent theme. We humans seek to soar aloft, to be tall and lofty and exalted. The beginning of that Book of Isaiah, Isaiah 2, at the end of that chapter, God says He is committed to leveling everything that soars in his lofty high mountains and tall trees and all that. He's talking about human beings. He's very clear about that. He says in Isaiah 2:17, "The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of man will be humbled. The Lord alone will be exalted in that day and the idols will totally disappear."
That's a work of humbling. The question may come in our hearts when we see what a consistent theme this is in the Bible of how God must humble us in order to save us. One might, in a very I think wicked way, have a thought creep into our minds that God may be secretly threatened by us, threatened by our greatness. He's got to level us. I was at a conference recently in which a speaker brought up this theme. The speaker didn't think this, but he brought up another woman writer that had written on this topic and how one particular theologian, John Calvin, just does a great job of the majesty, the exalted nature of God. This author wrote that it's always about humbling human beings. This author wrote these words, it seems, "God can only make himself great by making us small." The one who quoted this didn't believe this, but said that this author had put in the knife and was twisting it. God can only make himself great by making us small. I didn't find any particular difficulty in this challenge. It didn't strike me as anything difficult to refute. Because can I tell you something? God is great and we are small. That's just a fact. God and his healing of us must bring us around to the truth. We must see the truth about his exalted greatness and our relative smallness.
It's just simply true. God in his kindness shows it to us in order to save us. Solomon, the greatest king on earth at the time, in the dedication of the temple that he had made in 1 Kings 8:27 said, "But will God really dwell on earth? Heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain him. How much less this temple I have built!" Solomon wasn't lacking in self-esteem there. He just saw it as it really was. Also, we see the same attitude in David in Psalm 8:3-4. He said, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have made, what is man that you are mindful of him? The Son of Man that you care for him?” That's just a reasonable conclusion. When you look at the cosmos and the distant galaxies and just the size of the universe, we should come to a sense of our relative smallness. And yet amazingly in that Psalm, David goes on the very next verses, “You have made man a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands and you put everything under his feet.” There is a greatness to man in the image of God. But compared to God, we are small and we need to know that. We need to be humbled.
What we need here is health then, in our minds and souls, when we learn about the majesty, the great majesty and the glory of God, and we learn who we are. Created in his image, yes, immeasurably valuable, yes, but also infinitely small compared to God. Pride is at the root of all of our sin. As Augustine wrote centuries ago, pride is the beginning of sin, and what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation. This is undue exaltation when the soul abandons Him to whom it ought to cleave as its end and becomes a kind of end in itself. That's pride.
I. The Deadly Danger of Pride
In today's text, Jesus is going to address the core of his disciples' disease and that is their sense of pride, their pride toward one another. It starts with this shameful argument the disciples were having on the road. Look at it, verse 33-34, “They came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house, He asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet, because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.” I mean, this strikes me as an unusually juvenile moment on their part. The apostles are really quite remarkable people, and here they are debating. Imagine a group of adults at a party or something like that and this was the argument, this was the topic. You come into the group and you listen. Okay, what is going on here? It's a shameful thing. Now, some of us, if we're willing to be candid, admit from time to time we think we're the smartest person in the room or the most handsome or beautiful or the most skillful or the most whatever, but we usually have the good manners to keep that to ourselves, to not make it obvious that this is what we're thinking. Not these disciples, however. They're openly discussing which of them is the greatest. I think it's because these men were in a unique religious context, the Jewish context, in which piety was paraded openly by the religious leaders of the day. Remember how Jesus talked about the Pharisees and the religious hypocrites. When you give to the needy, don't announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do, because they sound trumpets when they give to the poor, needy, and they do the same with their other acts of piety. The concept of a humble religiosity, a humble piety was new to them. They weren't used to it.
Also new was the concept of a humble leadership, a humble kingdom, a king who was a humble servant of all. That was new. It was I think unknown really on planet earth until Jesus came as our servant king. Kings of the earth don't do that kind of thing, but Jesus came as a servant. We're going to talk more about that in the next chapter. These men expected a messianic kingdom of extreme glory in the pagan way. Pomp and power like all the other kingdoms of the world, lording it over those under their power, wearing silk robes and crowns and sitting on thrones of honor, judging the world. That's what they were thinking of. That was their human conception of the kingdom that they thought was just around the corner. They're just about to come into it and they expected this kind of greatness, but at the core of it was their own pride. The twelve apostles are having discussion about which of them was the greatest. Now, I hope they were willing to give Jesus the top spot. He's the greatest. But they were vying for number two, number three, et cetera, the pecking order. This theme dominated their minds. This was on their minds big time. It was eating at their souls like some kind of a cancerous tumor. Jesus, the Great Physician, has come to heal all his people of that disease of pride.
"Jesus, the Great Physician, has come to heal all his people of that disease of pride."
This passage has a unifying theme of Jesus addressing pride. There's some disparate parts to the paragraphs, and the connections aren't always obvious. But I think if we look at it a certain way, we can see how they hold together. For example, later in the text, John's going to bring up a man driving out a demon. Why does he bring that up? Well, I'll get to that, but I think if I were to stop the twelve apostles and say, "All right, let's discuss it. Let's put Jesus at number one. Let's try to find out who's number two. What you got? What are your qualifications? What's your best?" I'm like, what do they have to say? These are a group of humble fishermen who weren't doing much before Jesus showed up. Jesus comes along, "Follow me. I'll make you fishers of men." I haven't seen them do many great things here. What do you think? In the Gospel of Mark, are they looking great?
I don't know what the criteria are here. I do think that they were empowered by Jesus to drive out demons and they did that. I think it was the greatest moment of their lives up to that point. That's what they got. But keep in mind what just happened, nine of them swung and missed. They failed to drive out a demon just recently. What is the nature of this greatness? Do you see how deceived we can be about ourselves? They're discussing it. We're going to walk through this passage and see Jesus seeking to cure them of pride. It's a consistent issue. They deal with it again and again.
The very next chapter, you can look over on the page or maybe turn the page to Mark 10. Some of what I want to say I'm going to hold back until we more fully walk through that passage then. But in Mark 10:34 and following, remember how James and John came to Jesus in Mark's gospel? The sons of Zebedee came down. "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask." "What do you want me to do for you?" He asked. They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory." This is a basically pride-based request and Jesus is going to deal with it fully there. I'm not going to walk through that today, but it's coming up.
Then even the last night they were together, Last Supper, a very heavy night as Jesus is getting ready to die, it says in Luke 22:24, “a dispute arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.” This is a consistent theme. I do believe it's why at the Last Supper, Jesus washed their feet. This is not a light issue, this is a significant issue. It goes to the core of their souls, of their salvation. I must say ours too, ours too. Jesus has to deal with this, this deadly danger of pride.
Now, we need to see big picture. We've been over this before, but we need to see the origin. Where did this whole thing come from? It came, I believe, from Satan. It came from Satan's fall into sin. I actually think we're looking at the primordial, the beginning of evil itself. We're looking at the core of where did evil come into the good universe that God made? There's not a clear open answer to that, but I think if you know how to read the whole scripture, 66 books of the Bible, you can put some things together. The key passages are Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. Oracles against two human kings, I'll talk about that in a minute, but the king of Tyre and the king of Babylon. King of Tyre in Ezekiel 28:17. The key is the language. Both of those oracles soars far beyond anything that would ordinarily be said to a human king. You get the sense that you're reading a judgment that God had worked long before this king ever lived. Ezekiel 28:17, “your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.” I believe it is talking about Satan. Satan was made beautiful, powerful, and wise, and he became enamored with himself. He became enamored with his own attributes and he fell into wickedness. Isaiah 14:13-14, “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High’.” I think it starts in Ezekiel 28 with “Ain't I something? I'm beautiful, I'm wise, I'm powerful, then I can take God on and topple him”. There's this soaring, rising attempt to topple God. Satan is not understanding the infinite gap there is between creator and all creation. It's an immeasurable gap, and he thought he could close that gap and topple God from the mountain. But however powerful Satan is, there's still that infinite gap forever. God judges him in both oracles, Isaiah 14:15, “but you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.” The same thing in Ezekiel 28, “I threw you to the earth. I made a spectacle of you before kings. I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God. I expelled you, O guardian cherub from among the fiery stones.” The word in Ezekiel 28:16-17 is clear because Satan became powerful and arrogant based on his wisdom, beauty, and power, and God moved to throw him to the earth. Ultimately, he's going to be cast down into the lake of fire, he and his angels, the demons.
Pride, I believe, is the original sin in the universe. That's where it started, causing Satan to rise up against God. It was based on his own evaluation of his attributes of what God had put in him. But then having been thrown to the earth, we read the tragic story, which is the story of the Bible, of how he recruited the human race to join him in the same rebellion, and we did. He was successful in recruiting Adam and Eve to his same mentality, his same rebellion, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was because they could become like God, knowing good from evil, and that the fruit was powerful to make them wise. They wanted to take God's place. Therefore, pride was at the root of human beings' fall into sin. Now, if you look at the oracles, if you were to go to Isaiah 14 and read them in context and you were to read the oracle in Ezekiel 28, these are oracles against human kings. As I said, they're oracles against the king of Babylon, the most powerful military conqueror on earth, the most powerful political leader on earth, and then the king of Tyre, most powerful economic ruler on earth. It's about everything that we care about on earth, that's what these human kings are. You just say, "It doesn't say anything about Satan here." But I believe what's going on is that Satan is the true puppet master behind the human puppets on the stage of human history, and he's hidden. He's devious and deceptive and not obvious. Just like in the Garden of Eden, it's not Satan that shows up. It's a talking serpent. God, in his wisdom, knows Satan is shrewd, but God shows himself even more shrewd. He's like, "Are you going to do that? Fine, then I'll talk to your puppet, but I'm really talking to the puppet master. I'm going to talk to the king of Babylon." Where in that human king is Satan? He's getting that same judgment, and they are too. Human kings are often like that. I'm going to talk to the king of Tyre, but I'm really talking to the puppet master behind the king of Tyre. There's a wisdom to that. It's like you're going to play games, you're going to put on costumes? I will talk to you in language you'll understand and you're going to get judged. But so also will all the human beings who act like you, who take over their kingdoms and their faith.
We're not the king of Tyre, we're not the king of Babylon, but we want to be master of our own fate and captive of our own soul. We want to run our own little kingdom. And that is the way in which we are like these dark kings. In order to save us, God has to humble us, absolutely, has to humble us. So many verses are on this in the Bible. I love James 4:6. We also quoted in 1 Peter, “ God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Let that sink in; God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
What is it like to have the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God opposing you? You don't want that. But what do you want? You want grace. If you will humble yourself, he will give you grace, lavish grace. He gives us more grace, Peter says. In order to save us, He must humble us. Every aspect of our salvation, all of it is designed to humble us. The doctrine of predestination is very humbling because we're told that we were chosen before we had done anything good or bad, before the creation of the world, not on the basis of any works. That's very humbling. The fact that Christ died for our sins centuries before we were born humbles us.
The fact that that God regenerated us by his sovereign power, taking out the heart of stone and giving us the heart of flesh so we could listen to the gospel message humbles us. The fact that faith is a gift of God humbles us. The fact that Romans 6:17 says, "Thank God you obeyed," means my obedience is because God worked it in me. That's humbling. And then we begin the journey of sanctification. Are you all finding it humbling? I am. You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. How's that going for you? Did you have a pretty perfect week, or are you consistently humbled by sanctification again and again, and again the Holy Spirit convicting you of sin?
It's very humbling. This process, this journey is humbling, and you're crying out like Paul, “The very thing I hate I do and the thing that I want to do I don't do. What a wretched man I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?” That's humbling. And then when He in an instant glorifies you and does in an instant what you couldn't do in a lifetime through your joint efforts with the Holy Spirit, that will be humbling. When He raises your body from the grave in glory and you will shine like the sun for all eternity and you didn't do anything to raise yourself up, that's humbling. The whole thing's humbling and why?
Because of where you're headed. Where are you headed? You're headed to be spectacular, radiantly glorious, beautiful, powerful, and wise forever, and in order that you might not fall later into sin, as Satan did long ago. He's brought you through this whole journey so that you'll remember you are not only a creature created by the infinitely wise creator, but you are a sinner redeemed by grace. When you're shining like the son in heaven and your brothers and sisters are shining too, you won't worship them and you won't worship yourself. You'll worship the God who saved you. That's why He asked to humble you, and so we're being humbled.
II. Humbled by the Cross, the Command, and the Child
We're humbled by what? We're humbled by the cross. We're humbled by this command. In this account, we're humbled by a child. Let's just walk through it. First the cross. I'm going to go back a couple of verses to verse 30 to 32, which we read last week, but it's relevant here. “They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching the disciples. He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him and after three days he'll arise.’But they did not understand what he meant and they were afraid to ask him about it.”
This is the repeated reminders of the cross that they just can't handle. Their conceptions of the messianic kingdom were worldly glory, worldly power, worldly beauty. That's what they were thinking. Peter rebuked him. He rebuked Jesus about this, about the cross. Jesus turned and rebuked not just Peter, but all of them saying, "Get behind me, Satan. You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man." Your human conceptions of the kingdom are basically satanic. That's what He's saying. You want to rise up in your pride, you want to glorify yourself in your beauty and power, that must not be. If you want to be in my kingdom, you have to be stripped of satanic pride.”
Now, they couldn't handle that teaching. They didn't understand it. Their minds couldn't handle a dead messiah. A dead son of David didn't make any sense to them, but they especially couldn't handle the conception of the need for him to suffer a bloody death on the cross in our place under the just wrath of God that we wouldn't go to hell, which we deserve. They couldn't handle that message. They didn't know that their sins needed to be atoned for by his blood. Neither did they understand how much they would have to drink from his cup of suffering in order to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. They didn't expect that either. The message of the cross was offensive to them. Jesus tells them these facts, but they can't understand it.
Then He asked them about their discussion. Look at it again, verse 33-34, “They came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house, He asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" Now, He knew what they're arguing about. He knew very well what they were arguing about. Why does He ask them? He's trying to draw the poison out. Let's bring it out. Let's talk about it. That's Jesus. He's bringing it up. But they were afraid to tell him why. They knew it was shameful. They were ashamed of what they were arguing. They didn't want to talk to Jesus about it. It's a shameful thing. Which of them was the best at exorcism, I guess. We don't have any examples of their teaching ministry at this point. I don't know their criteria, what made them great. It's pretty embarrassing, and they're ashamed to tell him. Jesus has to deal with it. He gives them this command, “To be first, you must be last.” In verse 35, “Sitting down, Jesus called the twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’"
We're going to expand and zero in on this in the next chapter. I'm going to reserve a lot of the comments for then. Mark 10:42-45, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” It's a pattern of humble servanthood. That's what's greatness in my kingdom. If you want those positions, those gradations of honor and eternity in the kingdom of heaven, you need to serve, be willing to serve. That's what He's going to talk about.
Then He brings in an object lesson, a little child, verses 36-37, “He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but the one who sent me.’” Jesus is a great teacher. He uses object illustrations, tangible parables, things that they can understand. Here, He actually uses a little child, probably a toddler, able to stand on his own, but small enough to be picked up and held in his arms. He's going to use this child so that they can look at the face of this little child.
Now, in the next chapter, when his disciples were rebuking parents who were bringing little children for Jesus to bless them, Jesus became angry and indignant with them. He said, Mark 10:14-15, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Every sinner on earth has to be converted from pride and humbled like a little child in order just to be saved. Just to be saved, just to have your sins forgiven, you have to become a little child. What does that mean to have humble, weak, child-like faith? You think about a little child that reaches up for his or her mother crying and extending arms. That's a picture of weak faith, weakness in yourself, faith toward the caregiver, toward the mother of the father. That's a picture of conversion. You don't come to Christ's kingdom like a triumphant warrior having fought a great battle and you're ascending the marble steps to the podium and receiving a crown of glory. That's not how you're saved. You're saved like becoming a little helpless child. That's how you're saved. You're like the thief on the cross who has nothing to offer, nothing, no works, no resume, nothing, but looks over to Jesus and says, "Remember me, Lord, when you come in your kingdom." "Today, Jesus said, "you'll be with me in paradise." You can't even enter the kingdom unless you're converted and become like a little child. That's humbling. But that's not this passage, that’s Mark 10:14-15. In this passage, Jesus extends it out to how they treat each other and uses a child to talk about how they should be horizontally treating one another. What does the humble life look like? Well, three aspects, humble to welcome one another gently, humble to see others' successes gladly, and humble to serve others simply.
III. Humbles to Welcome One Gently
We'll walk through these quickly. First of all, humble to welcome one another gently. Verse 37, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but the one who sent me.” This has to do with how you treat each other, how you talk to each other, how you deal with each other. And that does not involve harshly arguing with each other about greatness. That's not how we treat each other. Jesus is saying effectively, I am in each disciple you meet, every one of my genuine children. Treat them gently and lovingly and tenderly like any normal loving adult would treat a toddler. That's how gently and kindly you should be treating each other. Welcome each other like you would welcome this little child, because in so doing you're welcoming me. And if you welcome me, you also welcome the one who sent me. God is in all of this. Treat each other gently and kindly and not with arrogant, boasting about your greatness. Imagine you are at a playground and you see a little girl fall and skin her knee, and she's crying. The caregiver, maybe mom, maybe dad, maybe a nanny, grandma, grandpa, whatever, comes over. The child's crying, but the caregiver hasn't extended any help yet, hasn't picked the child up. The child's crying and hurting. The caregiver said, "I want you to acknowledge my superiority and greatness before I'll help you. Then I'll help you." But what would you think of such a person? It's like, what's wrong with you? This is not about your ego. It's not about your greatness. It's about treating someone with gentleness and kindness. That's what Jesus is. He's giving a picture of how you should be treating each other, not this arrogant boasting, this harshness that's going on. Welcome each other like that. And in so doing, you'll be welcoming me and through me welcoming God.
IV. Humbled to See Others’ Successes Gladly
Then he says humble to see each other's successes gladly. What happens now? That's an interesting moment, verse 38, “‘Teacher,' said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop because he was not one of us.’" Now, you could say, I don't get the flow here. Why did John say this? Let's imagine there is a connection, and it could be that John, ahead of any of the other apostles, gets it. He gets the humility and the meekness and the loneliness and his conscience is bothering him about something that had just happened recently, and so he tells this story. Now, I think the reason it's relevant is, like I said, I was trying to guess what their criteria of greatness was.
Like in sports, you look at statistics and championships won so you can determine what's called these days, the GOAT, “the greatest of all time.” You got to measure these things. All right, you apostle GOAT candidates, what are your credentials? What do you got? We drove out some demons. Good for you. Apparently not always because we just got done with that. Father, remember the nine apostles who didn't pray and didn't drive out the... You're not so great, but maybe that's the best of what you got. But John is remembering this. He's like, "Actually now that I think about it, we saw a man driving out demons and we told him to stop. We tried to stop him because he wasn't one of us."
Now we get to the issue of pride of horizontal competition, where you're in competition with other servants of God for which of them is the greatest, who did more, who did the most, all of that. We know what a destructive thing this can be, this arrogance, this pride. I heard a story, it's probably more of a parable than an actual historical story. But back in the days when in Egypt, in different places, monks would go out in the desert to fast and deprive themselves. They were being holy out in the desert. These demons were trying to tempt these holy men, and they weren't successful in getting them to sin. So then like The Screwtape Letters, the older demon says to the younger demon, "Tell him his brother has just been made bishop of Alexandria." It worked. Immediately, jealousy and pride came over him. That happens a lot. You're in ministry and you're comparing yourself with others to see who's the greatest.
What we need to understand is that these apostles weren't the only ones that Jesus gave power to to drive out demons. In Luke 10, He sends out 72 disciples with power to drive out demons, not just the twelve. It seems that this guy is a legitimate follower of Christ who has a legitimate power through the Holy Spirit to drive out demons. John and the other apostles tried to stop him, tried to shut him down, because he wasn't one of them, one of the twelve. He wasn't one of the select group. I think John realizes now that probably is the wrong thing to do. “Was that the wrong thing to do, Jesus?” “Yes, it was.” Why? Well, he needs to see the unity of the work of Christ. Look at verses 39-40, “'Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.’"
It's like the same spirit of God who is in him doing legitimate exorcisms is working a legitimate saving faith in him to say Jesus is Lord. You can't say Jesus is Lord apart from the work of the Spirit, the same Spirit at work in you is at work in him. He's not going to be able to say anything bad about us. Conversely, he's going to testify that I'm Lord and that he loves me. But then Jesus says strikingly in verse 40, "Whoever is not against us is for us." It's interesting, because in Matthew 12:30, He says the opposite, but the same thing, just a different way. He says, "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." These are two sides of the same equation. You're either for Jesus or against him. There are two and only two kingdoms, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan. You're serving one or the other. There's no third option. If you're not against Jesus, you're for him. If you're not for him, you're against him. He says it's black or white. Therefore, if anyone actually is legitimately serving the kingdom of God, he's on your side. We're on the same team. We're in the same kingdom. We should be celebrating other people's successes as though they were our own. But that pride of competition can be very divisive, very harmful in a church and indeed in the kingdom of Christ.
"There are two and only two kingdoms, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan. You're serving one or the other. "
What's so beautiful about this is in heaven, we're going to be so liberated from pride. We'll be liberated forever from self-focus and self pride. We are going to celebrate the successes and honors and glories of our brothers and sisters like they were our own. Why? Because 1 Corinthians 12:26 says we're all part of one body. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, "If one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers with it. But if one part is honored, what? The whole body is honored with it." Therefore, we should not just celebrate other's successes, but help them succeed even more. Feed them with encouragement, with the Word of God, with anything we can to help our brothers and sisters in their ministries flourish and be fruitful because we're all serving one Lord, one kingdom. That's pretty awesome.
V. Humbled to Serve Others
Finally, humble to serve others, simply Jesus. Jesus said in verse 41, "I tell you the truth. Anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward." There’s a fuller teaching on this in Matthew 10. In Matthew 10, He sends them out, the twelve, two by two, and He tells them not to bring any money for their journey or any extra tunic or sandals or staff or anything because the worker's worth is keep. You're supposed to go to a town and find somebody who'll welcome you in and take care of you, meet your needs, like the widow did with Elijah or the other family did with Elijah. They bring you in and feed you and care for you and you stay there and do your preacher ministry. Then He circles back to the support givers, the support givers. In Matthew 10:40-42, Jesus says, "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward. Anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And if anyone gives you, one of my little ones, even a cup of cold water, he will never lose his reward.” If you're out, you twelve apostles, on your preaching journeys and you're getting hot and your throat is parched and someone comes along having heard you preach and says, "I want you to preach more," and gives you a cup of cold water, God in heaven will see that and reward that person. If anyone supports you and cares for you while you do your preaching ministry, they get the same reward you do." That's very humbling, isn't it? Not everyone's an upfront person, but those that give support to the upfront people get the same reward as the upfront people. That should level this pride and put us all where we need to be, on the same team. That's the passage.
Let's learn a few lessons. First of all, just let me use this passage as a mirror. We should not assume we are any better than the twelve apostles arguing about which of them is greatest. We should assume we have this same problem and say, "Lord, show it to me. Show me where pride is hurting me. Show me where my arguments with loved ones is coming from pride. Show me where my pride is hurting my marriage, my parenting, my relationship with my brothers and sisters, my relationship with my neighbors, my relationship with my coworkers. How is pride hurting me? Show it to me. Expose it to me.” Don't assume the answer is that it isn't. How can the cross of Christ level my pride? How can I see in Jesus' death on the cross the remedy to my pride? How can I see in Jesus, the ultimate humble servant, the remedy for my arrogance and my pride? How does this passage convict you? How can we learn the lessons of humility that the Bible teaches us? How can we meditate? I would challenge you, memorize, James 4:6. Memorize this one verse and meditate on it every day for a week or even a month, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Just say it to yourself like 50 times in one day. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. God, give me more grace and humble me. How can I humble myself so that you will give me more grace? How can you work humility in me? How can we better celebrate the ministry successes of others? How can I as a pastor celebrate other successful pastors whose church is maybe more fruitful than ours or bigger or more this or that? We're on the same team. Whoever's not against you, this is for Him. How can we within this local church celebrate and help the ministry successes of others and not be jealous of them?
How can we welcome, how should we welcome one another like little children? How can we be gentle and deal gently and lovingly with each other like little children? And finally, how can this cup of cold water teaching motivate us to store up treasure in heaven? If God's not going to forget even the slightest tiny act of service, the cup of cold water, one will never lose his reward, Jesus said. How can that motivate me to serve Christ better?
Finally, how does this passage speak to lost people? How is your pride holding you back from coming to Christ? How is your pride holding you back from repenting of your sins and believing? Jesus said you have to be converted and become like a little child. What's holding you back from trusting in Jesus so that your sins can be forgiven?
Close with me in prayer. Father, thank you for this passage, for its power, its complexity, its beauty. Lord, though we do not delight ever and sin, we do thank you that the sinful attitudes of the apostles and their sinful discussions with each other are recorded in scripture, so that we can ourselves be convicted and we can ourselves repent. Strengthen each of us, oh Lord, as we look at this passage. Teach us, Oh Lord, our ways. Help us to see ourselves in it and humble ourselves that you may lift us up. In Jesus' name, Amen.