Summary: The thesis of this sermon is that a Disciple of Jesus Christ is called to be a humble, childlike servant, following in the steps of Jesus.


MARK 9:30-37

--by R. David Reynolds

“Cathy Rigby was the hope of the United States Gymnastics Team at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. She had one goal in mind—excellence! Before the games began, she prayed for strength to move her through the routine without making a mistake.

“She performed well, but she did not win. Emotionally, she was crushed. She joined her parents in the stands, ready for a good cry. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, ‘I did my best.’

“Today Cathy recalls ten words from her Mother that she will never forget. “Doing, your best is more important than being the best.’” [--H. B. London Jr. and Stan Toler, The Minister’s Little Devotional Book (Tulsa: Honor Books, 1997), 167].

That is the Gospel Truth, but it was a lesson the Disciples were slow to learn. It seems they always wanted to be the best, to outdo each other. In Matthew Chapter 20 we remember that Jesus’ Aunt, the Mother of His disciples James and John, came to Him with a request, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left” [--Matthew 20:21b]. Learning this, the other ten disciples were angry, for Matthew observes, “And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. [--Matthew 20:24]. Even at the Last Supper envy and rivalry still stirred in their hearts according to Luke 22:24, “And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.” So here in our text this morning, the same sin causes tension in the Body of Christ, “But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.”

[--Mark 9:34]. On more than one occasion the Twelve desired only to be the best, the top dog, number one in their Lord’s eyes and Kingdom.

How true that is of would be disciples and even entire Churches in 2003. We are programmed to be winners. I recently saw a neat documentary on the rigorous training one must overcome in order become a Navy Seal. There were four teams of trainees that were to navigate their inflatable raft over treacherous, high seas in a race to the beach. The team that came in first was congratulated by their training officer. The number two team was simply asked, “What does that make you?” Their captain responded, “First Looser, Sir.” How often do people remember the names of the silver or bronze medallists?

But Jesus declares such are not the motives of a true disciple. Greatness in the Kingdom of God is seen in humility, not in being number one. Humility is the sign of a true disciple, and those individuals and Churches who want to travel the Pathway of Discipleship walk in the spirit of servant hood and childlikeness with their Lord.

“Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all’” [--Mark 9:35].

There are two primary words in the New Testament that are translated into English as “servant.” The word “servant” in our text also means “a minister,” a “deacon,” and a “waiter at a meal.” It applies to all ministries of service to others. A true disciple, indeed a Church of disciples, by the power of the Holy Spirit becomes a servant to all God’s people. That disciple or that Church will fully exercise the spiritual gifts and talents God has given them for the good of their brothers and sisters in Christ. All services are rendered in the selfless spirit of Jesus who is the prime example of servant hood. A portrait of true servant hood is painted for us by Peter in I Peter 4:10-11, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, He should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” The ministry of discipleship is all in the hands of Jesus, not our own, and it can only be accomplished “in the strength God provides.” All the glory, honor, and praise belong and go to Jesus, not to us.

Once again Oswald Chamber’s devotional yesterday spoke to my heart in this very area: “Being a disciple means deliberately identifying yourself with God’s interests in other people. Jesus says, ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another”

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