Summary: This message is the third in a series that deals with some of the difficult sayings of Jesus. This message examines Jesus’ statement about the first being last.
Many of us have a competitive nature, a drive to do everything we can to come out on top. We have been taught that you compete to win. Our culture teaches us to climb the ladder of success, to outpace our competitors and that the one with the most toys in the end wins. So we work hard to make sure that our lives are as comfortable as possible. We constantly search to find away to position ourselves ahead of the pack. The problem is that there will always be someone who will outpace us and we will be in a never ending struggle to catch up and take back what we believe is rightfully ours. What we read in our text says the complete opposite. Jesus throws another teaching at us that goes against everything that we have grown to believe about life. Come on, no one has ever gotten anywhere in this world by being last. Those who are last are the losers, the door mats and the failures. No one ever honors those who come in last place. In fact we may be thinking that there is no way that this teaching could work in real life. Or maybe this saying is not to be taken the way we are thinking. Right now we need to check all our preconceived notions about this saying at the door so that we can approach this text with an open mind. Why?? We need to be able to put this text into its proper context and discover exactly what Jesus is driving at. So let’s begin today’s journey of discovery.
I. Did Jesus really say what I think He did?
A. The typical Jewish person in the crowd believed that the day of God’s Judgment would turn things topsy-turvy.
1. The belief was that when the Messiah came justice would finally be served on behalf of God’s people.
2. All those who had oppressed and mistreated God’s people would finally get what was coming to them.
3. Jesus throws a curveball at the crowd when He applies this belief to the ordinary every day person instead of on a national level.
4. In the Jewish mind poverty was equated with God’s judgment and prosperity was equated with God’s blessing.
5. So like us, this statement catches Jesus’ first century listeners completely off guard. Why? Because Jesus is turning the normal social order upside down.
B. We need to remember that the disciples are still stunned by Jesus’ answer to the rich young man that asked to follow Him.
1. This encounter took place a few verses earlier in this chapter.
2. By Human standards this man had it all. He was apparently respected and viewed as righteous by the people.
3. In their mind, God’s favor obviously rested upon him because he was very prosperous.
4. No wonder the disciples were shocked. Wow!! If a man like this can’t get into Heaven, who can?
5. Consider this? “Was the problem the man’s wealth or his priorities?”
6. The way we answer this question will determine the context in which we view Jesus’ statement.
II. Bringing a tough statement into proper focus.
A. The result of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man causes Peter to arrive at a wrong conclusion.
1. Consider Peter’s logic. “If the rich guy can’t get in because he refused to sacrifice, then we must have our place secured because of our sacrifice.”
2. The problem is with his logic Peter displays the same attitude that led the rich young man to walk away sadly. “Me first!”
3. Didn’t Jesus just say that all those who have made great sacrifices for Him would be rewarded greatly in the Kingdom?
4. The problem is that Peter is trying to turn the sacrifices that they had made for Jesus into a badge of honor.
5. So Jesus with this difficult statement is rebuking Peter for believing that making these sacrifices will guarantee that they are first in line.
B. The truth is that the disciples did make some pretty big sacrifices to follow Jesus.
1. None of the disciples were living in poverty when they chose to follow Jesus.
2. Some of them left lucrative businesses and families in order to become Jesus’ disciple.
3. Jesus is not simply teaching that to follow Him you must give up all your stuff. What He is saying is that if we are going to follow Him we need to make Him the top priority and be willing to give up anything that would keep that from happening.
4. Jesus always gave it to His disciples straight. He showed that there was no shortcut to the Kingdom of God.
C. Jesus is showing that He is not impressed with those things that the world considers to be indicators of success.