May 7, 2017
When a new administration comes to power we all have a choice. We can embrace the new administration or not. In some ways our choice makes little difference. Whether or not we embrace the new administration, new policies will be implemented and we will all be effected.
When Jesus came into the world, he came to bring a new administration. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has become Savior, Lord, and King. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to him. The question is will we embrace Christ as our Savior, Lord and King. Will we enter into his eternal life? I am going back to the gospel of Mark because there are passages that discuss what it means for Christ to be Lord in specific areas of our lives. This morning’s passage is not so easy, but it is very interesting. From this passage I want to say that all who embrace Christ as Lord are received by Christ the Lord.
I. WE HUMBLY RECEIVE ALL WHO SERVE IN JESUS’ NAME. Mk.9:38-40
Mark 9 begins with the transfiguration of Jesus in which Peter, James and John see his glory revealed and are told to listen to Jesus. When they come down the mountain they find the other disciples arguing with the scribes. A man in the crowd tells Jesus that he brought his son who had an evil spirit to the disciples that they might cast it out, but they could not. I wonder if in the back of his mind Jesus was thinking, “Man I can’t let these guys alone for a minute.” The thought came to me that maybe the reason Jesus was always taking Peter, James and John with him is because they were loose cannons. He had to keep his eye on them. After healing the boy, Jesus, for the second time, tells his disciples about his approaching death and resurrection. And again, they are clueless to understand.
In v.33 we find them in a house in Capernaum. Jesus asks his disciples what they were discussing on the way. They grew silent because they had been arguing about who of them was greatest. Jesus says, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Then Jesus takes a child in his arms and says, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” In that day children were not highly valued as they are today. Jesus was teaching that he came to serve those who are small and insignificant, those who are on the outs, so to speak. He humbly embraces those others would not embrace. And those who follow Jesus will do the same.
Let’s think about this. The 12 disciples were chosen by Jesus. And in their minds, if you were not part of their group then you were on the outs in regard to Jesus. We know that there were people who followed Jesus and were associated with the disciples. There were a number of women who actually supported Jesus and the disciples, and then there were people like Nathaniel, mentioned in Jn.1. These folks were on the approved list. They belonged to Jesus’ people.
But in these verses we learn about a man who was casting out demons in the name of Jesus. John and the others were concerned because they didn’t know this guy. He was not part of their group. He didn’t share in their fellowship and had not heard the personal teachings that Jesus gave them. They were suspicious. And so John and the others took it upon themselves to put a stop to what this man was doing. Even though he was casting out demons in the name of Jesus, because he was not part of their fellowship he could not possibly be right.
This action on the part of John and the others is consistent with their own lack of understanding regarding Jesus. Numerous times Jesus says they are hard of heart and slow to believe. They regularly argued about who of them was the greatest. They embraced worldly values when it came to power and success. They hindered children from coming to Jesus because they figured Jesus was too important to spend time with children. James and John were ready to call down fire on a Samaritan village. And they tried to get a leg up on the other disciples by asking for the seats of glory beside Jesus in the kingdom. There was at least one occasion when Peter rebuked the Lord as if he knew better than the Lord. And here in Mk.9:14-29, the disciples were themselves unable to cast a demon out of a young boy. And yet they were quite confident in their assessment that since this guy was not part of their group they needed to stop him from casting demons out of others.
When they told Jesus about this, instead of getting a commendation from Jesus, Jesus told them that they should not have stopped the man because, in fact, the man was doing a mighty work in Jesus’ name. He wasn’t working against Jesus. He was doing the works of Jesus in Jesus’ name or authority. The disciples had not considered that possibility.
I am reminded of when Paul was in Ephesus in Acts 19. Some itinerant Jewish exorcists saw how Paul cast out demons in the name of Jesus and they decided to give it a try. In Acts 19:13-16, we read, “Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims." Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?" And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” The name of Jesus is not magic. Those men had no relationship with Jesus.
But the man in Mk.9 was actually having success serving in Jesus’ name. Instead of shutting this man down, the disciples ought to have at least humbly considered what this man was doing. They could have tried to learn more about the man instead of belittling him.
This passage speaks to a common problem. How do we regard Christians who are not part of our tradition? “Years ago, there were two churches in a certain community, a Methodist church and a Baptist Church. The Baptists were temporarily without a pastor when suddenly a church deacon died. The family asked the Methodist pastor if he would conduct the funeral service. This was the Methodist pastor’s first year in the ministry, and he felt he needed approval from the bishop. So he sent a telegram asking, “May I have approval to bury a Baptist deacon? The bishop quickly replied with a telegram that read, “Bury all the Baptists you can!”
I realize the situation in Jesus’ day is quite different from our situation today. Today we have three main branches of Christendom: the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant church. And each of these groups are divided into many sub groups. Each group has their own peculiar doctrines, traditions, and ways of understanding Scripture. Each group thinks it has the truth and the others have gotten it wrong. I wonder how Jesus would navigate his way through all of these Christian groups.
As I look at this passage, I am struck by an important thought. The most important thing is whether or not those who call themselves Christians embrace Christ as Lord. Do they fully believe and act on the truth that Jesus is God in the flesh and the only Savior, Lord, and King?
Someone says, “Well the Orthodox and Catholics believe in salvation by works. The Catholics have a faulty understanding of justification and sanctification. The Orthodox, Catholics, and Lutherans basically believe in baptismal regeneration. And we could go on. What about icons? What about the virgin Mary, transubstantiation and Purgatory?” I’m not saying that these things are unimportant. In my understanding it seems that the Orthodox and Catholics in particular bring a great deal of confusion in regard to what it means to know Jesus. I have spoken with people raised in the Catholic church who never understood the gospel of Jesus. And in the mainline Protestant churches there is outright denial of the scripture, the deity and exclusivity of Christ.
At the same time I also realize that there are those from our own tradition who have prayed a prayer for salvation, but who do not at all embrace Christ as their Lord. They do not acknowledge the Lord in their daily living.
The man in this passage may not have understood as much as the 12 disciples did, but he seemed to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord. He was trusting in Jesus and serving in the name of Jesus. We must be careful that we don’t write people off because they are not from our particular church tradition. At the very least we must humbly acknowledge anyone who wholeheartedly embraces Christ as Lord and serves others in the name of Jesus. I would much rather let Jesus sort it all out then write someone off because they are not in my group.
Now I am concerned for many who call themselves Christians today. I want to do whatever I can to help people understand who Jesus is and what it means to embrace him as Savior, Lord, and King. That is what the gospel is all about. If a person embraces Christ as Savior, Lord and King and seeks to live as his disciple are we willing to allow that they belong to Jesus, even if they are not part of our group?
II. WE GIVE HUMBLE THANKS FOR EACH ACT OF SERVICE IN JESUS’ NAME. Mk.9:41
Humble service is the path of Jesus. He makes this clear in so many ways. In Mk.10:45 Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." In Mk.9:36-37 Jesus shows that he embraces and serves those who are dead last in the eyes of society, the children. And so, just as disciples of Jesus humbly receive all who embrace Jesus Christ as Lord, so disciples of Jesus give thanks for each and every act of service in Jesus’ name.
As I think about this passage I am struck by the fact that this man did not think he had to get approval from Jesus’ disciples. He was serving Jesus. Jesus is Lord. I am also struck by the fact that in stopping the man from casting out demons in Jesus’ name, they are belittling and dismissing his service as if it has little value. It’s as if they are saying, “You can’t cast out demons in Jesus’ name because you don’t know Jesus like we do since you are not part of us.” They were disqualifying him and his service.
Maybe you are one who has felt that your acts of service in the name of Jesus go unnoticed and have little significance. Well, that is not true. The Lord is fully cognizant of every act of service that we do for others. So we seek to serve the Lord for his honor and glory and not for the approval of others. That is not so easy for many of us. We often like the approval of others.
What might be dismissed by some is not overlooked by God. Jesus makes it clear that the smallest act of kind service is acknowledged by God. We are laying up treasure in heaven and will not lose our reward. When we serve others in the name of Jesus or because we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord, we are serving the Lord himself.
For all who are followers of Jesus, it is important that we not belittle or dismiss anyone’s service for Christ. A cup or water given in the name of Jesus is as valued as casting out demons. All of us are called to humble service in the way of Jesus.
This morning we are coming the Lord’s Table. Who is this table for? It is for all who in their heart of hearts are trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and life in the eternal kingdom of God. By faith you have owned Jesus as your Savior, Lord and King. By participating in the Table we are renewing our dependence upon Jesus for life. We are physically expressing our trust in Jesus as we eat the bread and drink the cup. We are saying that Christ is my life. And we are joyfully eating and drinking in the fellowship of all those who have yielded themselves to Christ as Lord. Amen