Summary: The contrast couldn’t be more stark. Jesus describes his ultimate act of service while the disciples argue over which of them will be the greatest! This sermon stealthily plunges the listener into this contrast; then pulls them out on the right side.
My dear friends in Christ, I want to tell you about something that I didn’t really begin to figure out until I was about 24. Many of you figured it out long before you reached that age; some of you have not figured it out yet. But when someone finally does learn it, and it begins to sink in, it actually starts to change the way he thinks of himself, the world, and his place in the world. And its an astoundingly good change. A change that you would love to see in your own life, if you haven’t already.
Are you curious as to what I’m talking about? Are you wanting me to just come out and say what it is? Well, I’m not going to do that. It would be great if I could simply slap together a single sentence, a sound byte, that would instantly communicate everything I’m talking about, but I am simply not capable of doing that. So I’m going to ask you to be patient with me, stay with me for about 13 minutes and 20 seconds, and help me unpack this life-changing thing that shall, for the moment, remain a hidden.
Since we are going to talk about the change in our thinking with regard to the world and our place in it, let’s begin our little trip by considering the way we are accustomed to thinking about these things.
When we came into the world, we were, for the most part, in awe of it. As children, our eyes were made wide as each new aspect of the world was revealed to us. The world was big, a place full of wonder, excitement, and fascination. It could also be somewhat dangerous too.
Our parents shielded us from the danger in the early years. They taught us many things about the world. They encouraged us to pay attention in school and get an education so that we could get our lives in order; so that we would have the right stuff to carve out a place for ourselves in the world.
There were latent, God-given talents in each of us just waiting to be discovered and we discovered most of them. And then we developed them as we focused our lives in a particular direction and sought more education, experience, and training. Along the way, we also acquired what nowadays are referred to as “skills”. People skills, coping skills, relationship skills...and so on and so forth. We coupled these skills together with our education and we achieved a modicum of success in the world.
And we deserved it, because of all the hard work we had put into our personal development. And so we moved from the developmental stage, to the rewards stage. We had to do without so many things for a number of years, but now, we can finally buy the things we wanted. We deserve to buy them because of our tenacity and hard work. We deserve a house, the car, the good food, the pleasant vacations. We deserve it all because of what we have made of ourselves. This is life in the world as we are accustomed to viewing it.
But now, let’s take a moment to consider the world that we don’t see or perhaps have a tendency to overlook. Indeed we already were hitting all around it; there are hints of it all around us too, if we care to look.
I mentioned your parents. Think about these people! They gave you birth! They fed you and clothed you and dried your tears when you were hurt. They held your hand when you were nervous, gave you a push when it was time for you to grow in some way. For the most part they didn’t pander to you or try to win your approval. They simply tried to do what was right.
In spite of what you might be given to think, these servants, your parents who stood behind you, were God’s gift to you. They worked for free. As a matter of fact, they paid for the opportunity to give and sustain your life. There were many things that they might have wanted to do for themselves, but they were not able to, because they chose to do for you instead. And for the most part, they were happy to do it. Your success and happiness in life is all the payment that they ever needed.
And then there were all of your teachers; these too were God’s servants for your good even though they might not have realized it. They taught you to read and to think and to sort through a world of knowledge in a logical way. They opened up a world of information for you; made it possible for you to learn and grow in your knowledge. And like your parents, teachers, find their highest joy when they see their students succeed.