Summary: A short sermon looking at the priorities Jesus sets in this Bible reading and asking what our priorities are. My prayer is that His priorities will be ours.
Priorities, priorities, priorities! I wonder how you react to hearing those three words, or was it one word? Are you thinking ’time management’? Do you have a ’to-do list’? Do you wonder if you have got your priorities right? Would you like more time for those things you consider to be top priority? Do you know what God’s priorities are for your life and for his church?
On this occasion ’Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples’ (9:30-31). At this particular time his priority was teaching his disciples, just as on other occasions his priority was prayer and he would go to a solitary place by himself (Mark 1:35), and other times he would specifically avoid the crowds who were clamouring for his attention (Luke 4:42-43). Jesus had a clear sense of his priorities. He only ever did what he saw the Father doing, and that meant he was not constantly available at everyone’s beck and call.
I know that vicars and church leaders find this particularly challenging because we feel as if we should be available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. We feel as if we should be more available than Jesus ever was! How about you? Can you set aside time for priorities, for the different things that are really important? If you have a mobile phone is it on 24 hours a day? Do you always answer your telephone at home, even at mealtimes? Do you set aside time as a priority to be alone with God, to get to know God better, or in the case of Jesus to teach others?
The disciples were struggling with their priorities ’because on the way [to Capernaum] they had argued about who was the greatest’ (9:33-34). The followers of Jesus were sadly jockeying for position. They were focusing on things that would not grow the kingdom. They were talking about their own position and future career prospects, and so Jesus asked them what they were arguing about on the road (9:33).
Jesus had prioritised time to teach the disciples about his future betrayal and death and resurrection. They had not understood what he meant and were afraid to ask him (9:31-32). Instead, they had ended up in a discussion about themselves, and I guess Jesus would ask the same question of us today. What are we arguing about? In our families, our individual churches, and in the national church - what are we arguing about? Is it possible that we, like the disciples would keep quiet, embarrassed because of the things we are arguing about. I wonder what Jesus makes of our priorities, both local and national.
I love the fact that Jesus does not appear to be frustrated or annoyed with his followers. Yes, they had failed to understand his teaching about himself and were afraid to ask him, and they were embarrassed to talk about the argument they had just been having, but Jesus sits down, calls the 12 and teaches them (9:35).
"If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (9:35). Jesus takes their argument about who was the greatest, and tells them how to become great! He says he will become great by becoming the very last, by becoming the servant of all, and in doing so he teaches them more about his own ministry, and the ministry of service that you and I are called to. Jesus took their priorities and shaped them into his priorities, and he wants to do that with you and me. Jesus wants to do that with his church both locally and nationally.