Summary: The call to be salty is a call for us to persevere as real disciples, who are inwardly pure. Who’ve held nothing back in following Jesus. It’s a call for us to be real disciples who welcome others and who glory in each other’s success.
This morning we remember those who served, and who gave their lives, in not just the Great War, but in all wars. We remember and give thanks for their dedication and service, their bravery and commitment. I know there are some here who have lost friends or family to war, or who have experienced it firsthand for themselves. I know it’s a little early, but let’s stop and take a minute of silence to reflect, to remember and to pray.
But it’s not just those men and women that we remember this morning. We remember that Jesus also made the ultimate sacrifice for us. We do this especially as we celebrate Communion together don’t we? Part of it is remembering Jesus’ victory over sin and death. In verse 31, we’re reminded that Jesus didn’t come to earth for the fun of it,
“The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”
Jesus makes it clear to the disciples that it was no accident or failure. In the war against sin and death the Cross was God’s master plan. From a human point of view it might look like a massive defeat. Jesus was betrayed and beaten. But the opposite is true! It wasn’t something that caught Jesus by surprise. He knew exactly what was ahead of him. Even the ‘betrayal’ was part of God’s plan, that Jesus be handed over in our place.
The Cross was God’s great victory!
Do you remember what happened though, the last time Jesus spoke of the Cross? Peter reprimanded him for it! It was clear then that the disciples just didn’t get it. And this second time, they’re still struggling to understand how and why Jesus must die. They still can’t comprehend why the Messiah should suffer and die, no matter what he says about rising from the dead. Perhaps because they can still remember Jesus’ rebuke to Peter, this time the disciples keep quiet.
At least they keep quiet about their ignorance! As they walk from Galilee to Capernaum the disciples are anything but silent! They’re trying to answer a very important question. Not “Why must the Messiah suffer and die?” but “Who is the Greatest amongst us?”
A few years ago I became hooked on the TV show Survivor. One of these reality shows, where every week someone gets voted off. Before the vote, you see the contestants breaking off into small groups, having whispered conversations, frantically trying to work out the pecking order.
The disciples are doing exactly the same thing! You can imagine them kind of hanging back behind Jesus as they walked, breaking into small groups, trying to work out who’s at the top and who’s at the bottom. I mean, Peter, James & John were the one’s who got to go up the mountain with Jesus. They’re the obvious favourites, but where does everyone else stand?It could be the disciples are just as obsessed with social standing and importance as everyone else in their, and our, time. It could be that the message about Jesus’ death is starting to sink in and they’re wondering who will take over then? Which ever it is, when Jesus asks them what they’ve been talking about they’re not willing to admit to anything. They decide to keep silent again.
But Jesus isn’t fooled. He knows exactly what they were talking about. He’s got better hearing than any teacher, or parent who can hear the softest whisper under a child’s breath! And so he stops, sits down, gathers them together and teaches what real discipleship is all about. In verse 35 he says,
“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
Real discipleship isn’t about glory. It isn’t about what we can get out of it. In fact, it’s a complete reversal of the way we’re taught the world works. There’s no corporate ladder of discipleship. Jesus says if you want to be first, you’ve got to be last. Being a top disciple means denying ourselves as we put into practice the call love one’s neighbour.
The next time the issue of rank and glory comes up, in chapter 10, Jesus drives it home when he says
‘The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.’
Those who want to follow Jesus must follow his example of setting others first.
Jesus demonstrates the radical reversal of rank with a hug. As he wraps his arms around a little child he tells them,
“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
In Jewish culture, children were right at the bottom of the totem pole. Just as today, they were under the authority and care of others. They had no standing in society. But Jesus says, being a disciple means welcoming even the lowliest. Not just children, but all who are like children in their smallness and unimportance. Displaying this kind of radical hospitality is part of what it means to receive and welcome Jesus. Welcoming others is another part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. The disciples go on to show just how welcoming they're prepared to be.