Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Rethinking Greatness and Success

March 22nd, 2009 by Vic

Mark 9

It seems like I never learn.  And to compound the problem, I have forgotten much of what I once knew.  I have to keep learning and re-learning.

Then there are things I think I know that are distortions of what is real.  How many diet plans have proved false?  Now researchers are finding that sugar substitutes are more harmful than sugar.  Some seem to cause obesity.  How many building codes have caused more problems than they solved?  How can bigger garbage cans reduce garbage?  How can pouring more bailout money in the tank repair a flat tire?

Jesus is trying to correct the disciples thinking about the Messiah.  They had declared Jesus the Messiah and were ready to get Him inaugurated and set up a new government.

9:1 You will see a powerful kingdom

9:2 Three disciples on a spiritual retreat.

9:14 Nine disciples shoveling manure.

9:30 Second prediction of His death and resurrection

9:33 Who is the greatest?

9:38 Denominations and other stumbling blocks.

9:1 Within 35 years, many of the disciples had died, but the name of Jesus had spread throughout the Roman Empire.

9:2 On the 7th day Jesus took Peter, James and John to a high mountain.  Mt. Hermon is 9,200’.  There is a ski lift on the slopes today.  God had made an appointment for Jesus to meet Moses and Elijah and Jesus took 3 friends along.

Why Peter, James and John?  James was the first disciple killed.  He could not witness to the transfiguration very many days.

The root word for transfiguration is ‘metamorphaoo’ which is contrasted with ‘metaskematidzoo’ in Romans 12:2.  To be transformed is to have your outward life and appearance reflect what is in your nature.  To be conformed isto have a scheme on the outside that does not represent what is in the heart.  Maybe the new word for conformed is Madoff.

The Greek words describing Jesus mean: radiating from the inside, shiny, whiter than snow, glistening.  And this same Jesus is to be seen in you.  What do neighbors see glistening in you?

Elijah and Moses are having a conversation with Jesus.  What were they talking about?  Moses was probably anticipating the new exodus and freedom in Christ.  Elijah was noting the hardness of mans heart in spite of the displays of God’s power.  They were probably looking forward to the resurrection.

Moses represents the law and the regulations.  Elijah represents the prophets and the power of God.  Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets.  Moses and Elijah saw in Jesus all that they had dreamed of in the past.  They may have been encouraging Jesus that He was on the right path.  They were cheerleaders sent by God.

Notice that Elijah and Moses were not reincarnated as plants or animals or some other person.

We will know people in the resurrection.

The disciples were terrified.  Peter did not know what to say and he said it.  God told Peter to shut up and listen.  Peter’s thinking was too much like the culture of his day.  We are making the same mistakes today.  He saw Moses, Elijah, and Jesus equals.  (There are many ways to God?)  Peter wanted to build monuments.  (If your church isn’t growing, start a building project?)  Peter was afraid of the quiet. (We like music during prayer time?)

God did not say, “These are my sons.”  Then it was Jesus only standing there.  We don’t please God by focusing on the law, legalism, and correct doctrine.  We don’t please God by desiring signs and wonders and seeking demonstrations of power.  Keep your eyes on Jesus only.

The disciples are confused.  The last 2 verses of the OT say that Elijah will come before the Messiah to pave the way for salvation and judgment.  Read Malachi 4 and Luke 1:16-17.  Also Revelation 11 predicts that Elijah and Moses will come again to die and be resurrected, but the disciples had not read that yet.

Jesus commands them not to tell anyone what happened until after His resurrection.  They had evidenced the voice of God declaring Jesus the Messiah, but their understanding of the Messiah’s roll needed to be corrected.  Even telling the facts would be distorted by their worldview or paradigm.  After the resurrection they realized that the power of God they were expecting was not political power but the power of God’s kingdom of love.  Our preconceived ideas can blind us to the activity of God in our lives.  We really need each other.  How would you describe a kingdom coming with power?

9:14 From the retreat center to the manure pile.  Life was so much better on top of the mountain.  These other 9 disciples are here at the bottom arguing with the scribes.  The scribes are accusing the disciples of being powerless, but it is interesting that they did not cast out the evil spirit either.  They were arguing about doctrine and authority while the Father was ignored in his grief.

The disciples were given power and had cast out evil spirits and healed many in Mark 6.  Why couldn’t the disciples do what they had done before?  The answer to that is in 9:29.  They had failed to keep their relationship with God up to date.  Yesterday’s belief is powerless today.

Go back and read the story.  Note that the father was not important in this argument between the disciples and scribes.  He had become part of the crowd.  Then Jesus came.  The father was important to Jesus.  Jesus cared.  Jesus listened.  Jesus asked him how long the boy had been like this.  Jesus knew, so why is He asking this question?  He wanted to father to remember how hopeless the situation was before Jesus came.  The demon had tried to kill his son.  The father does not offer Jesus a huge sum of money.  The father does not tell Jesus how righteous he and his son were or how faithful he had been at church.  I’ve tried everything and everybody.  If you can do anything please help us, but you probably can’t.  The father pleads for mercy.

Jesus assures the father that there is hope.  The father cries out, “My belief is no good.  Please help me.”  The people came running.  Then the demon cried out and the crowd increased.

Today, I believe there can still be demonic influences behind suicide.  Satan’s goal is to kill and destroy.  It looked like the boy wanted to kill himself.  Jesus is hope.  Keep your relationship to Jesus up to date.  If God has given you a gift or ability, keep using it to serve others.

9:30 The disciples may have understood crucifixion, but resurrection they did not understand.  This is the greatest announcement that has ever been made in history.  God has a plan to destroy the power of sin and death.  The disciples don’t have a clue what is going on.  They are not worshipping.  They are not listening to what God is saying in Jesus.

9:33 Who should be the greatest?  Jesus knew what they were discussing.  Why did He ask a question first?

You’ve all had chickens.  You know what a pecking order is.  I’ve seen the same thing with cows.  People have a pecking order until Jesus asks a question or two.

The way to greatness is different in the Kingdom of God.  The words first and last are false designations.  Your heart determines the definition of some words.  Your motivation makes a difference.  Is it done in harmony with God’s will and way?  Or are you trying to do good and build God’s kingdom using Herod’s methods or selfish motives.

“In My Name” has something to do with greatness.  It has something to do with our unity.  ‘onoma’ occurs 230 times in the NT.  The church in Sardis (Rev 3) had a name, but they were dead.

This is not the first time Jesus has used children to illustrate humility and a servant spirit.  What can loving a child teach you about greatness?  There is nothing in it for you.  A child cannot give us anything, no influence, no power, nothing to advance our career.

To be great you must become the servant of all.  Motherhood is one of the greatest callings in this world.  Mother’s care for those who cannot help themselves.  God helps those who cannot help themselves.  So what should the rest of us be doing.  The Bible does not say, “God helps those who help themselves.”  That is a quote from the Koran.

The Bible says nothing about building up your self-esteem or finding yourself.  It says have the mind of Christ: no reputation, became like man, felt pain, humble, obedient, and died.  We are to put on the attitude of Christ.

9:38 John is confused.  What does “In Your name” mean?  We tried to stop some guy who was casting out demons in Your Name.  Unity in Jesus’ Name is part of greatness.  Malachi 4:2 says God will bless those who honor His name.

The root word for denomination is this word ‘name’.  We have a name.  We sometimes think we are the only disciples?  But success and greatness is not about our name.

Random acts of kindness done in Jesus name will please God.  The spiritual significance of help offered to another for Christ’s sake is independent of the material value of the gift.  A cup of water may be judged worthy of an eternal reward.  The opposite is also true.  A wrong done to another will bring trouble to the evil-doer.

With a child still in His lap or at His side He continues to talk about who is the greatest. A great man in God’s kingdom makes others greater.  Builds them up and never tears them down.  Make sure you walk in the will and way of Jesus.  If you don’t, you’ll end up in hell.  Jesus talked more about hell than heaven.  The worm speaks of internal torment.  The fire speaks of external torment.  Hands speak of what you do.  Feet speak of where you go.  There are things that should not be said.  There are places you should not be going.  There are things you should not look at.

Salt was used in ancient times as a preservative for meats and as a means of payment.  The soldier who was “not worth his salt” had not earned his “salary”, a word derived from the Latin word for salt.  Salt was sometimes diluted by the addition of white sand, which made it unsalty, but it kept the weeds down.

Keep pure.  Keep salty.  Be separate.  Don’t walk in the sinfulness of Herod’s ways.  Be a living sacrifice flavored by the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to die.  Peter, James and John had experienced the glory of God on the Mountain and the other nine got involved in an embarrassing situation.  They discussed a pecking order.  Jesus taught that the answer to their questions as to who is greatest is found in the child.  Keep your relationship with God current.  Let His Spirit keep your motives pure as a child.

Jesus is the Messiah, but not like you might expect.  His kingdom is not of this world.  His only weapon is love.  His only defense is obedience.

Jesus is the Son of God, there is no greater Name.  His greatness is like a child.

These 2 chapters have been packed with teaching on how to be a Christian or how to follow Jesus.

1. deny self, 8:34

2. take up your cross

3. follow

4. testify, 8:38

5. stop talking and listen to God, 9:7

6. fast and pray, 9:29

7. be last, servant of all, 9:35

8. be a peacemaker, 9:50

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