This sermon was preached at Red Rocks Baptist Church (14711 W. Morrison Rd. Morrison, CO 80465) on Sep. 30, 2012 by Pastor Les Heinze. These notes are provided as a recap and for further study into the message from God’s Word.
GUIDELINES FOR MEASURING GREATNESS
Which discussion would you rather be part of; an anticipated week in Maui or an expected stay in the hospital? The contrast seems almost laughable, at least until you put such opposite conversations in the context of this Mark passage. Peter, James, and John had recently witnessed the wonderful, memorable transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:1-8). It was so unusual, they wanted the memory and discussion about it to last so they suggested building three shelters, then stay on the mountain for a while. Jesus had another idea since God had another plan.
Rather than talking about greatness and glory, Jesus began a discussion about an arrest, a trial, a crucifixion, and an eventual resurrection. The disciples wanted no part of that conversation. From a human perspective, one can almost excuse them for choosing a much more attractive scenario. But Jesus used both of these discussions to put true greatness in God’s eyes into perspective by giving them three principles to think about.
1. Greatness is shown by demonstrating personal tenderness (9:35-42).
Since there was a large group in the house at Capernaum, Jesus seized the opportunity for an at-hand illustration. Picking up a child, possibly one of Peter’s nephews or nieces, he showed his own personal tenderness (v. 36). Tenderness and humility in dealing with children is especially noticeable because they have no influence. When we treat children kindly, it is usually a one-way street. Any expectation of return in ministering to a child will have to wait for a long time. This is others-focused greatness.
Also, children are high maintenance. They require a great deal of time and effort. Taking time for them is a visible demonstration of greatness. On the other hand, mistreating children is the lowest form of ‘smallness’. The Greek word for ‘stumble’ means to lead in the wrong direction, even into sin. That is the opposite of tenderness, crassness in the ultimate degree.
2. Greatness is shown by a commitment to personal holiness (9:43-48).
Arising out of a misunderstanding of Christian liberty, we live in a culture of wide permissiveness regarding personal holiness. In order to counteract that mentality, Jesus uses very graphic language to emphasize his point. The suggestion of cutting off body extremities was an ‘attention grabber’, not something that Jesus expected would be followed literally. By suggesting cutting off a hand to avoid sin, he is saying we must be extra-cautious about what we participate in. Cutting off feet means we should consider carefully the places those feet take us. And what about plucking out the eyes? What we see can hinder our fellowship with God. Better to be myopic viewing things of the world and focus on the things of God.
Being great in God’s eyes isn’t measured by how wide our personal participation supposedly demonstrates our freedom, rather greatness is reflected in how restrictive we are in order to glorify him who gave his life for us.
3. Greatness is shown by being personally useful (9:49-50).
Again, with illustrative brilliance, Jesus completes his teaching on greatness by drawing attention to salt. Salt as a preservative speaks to purity of life. We can show greatness by being useful to God in touching the lives of others who face eternal condemnation. God can use us as salt shakers in preserving their lives eternally.
Finally, Jesus mentions salt as a flavor enhancer. The attractiveness of a life that honors God in showing a caring Savior to those who need a friend is powerful.
God is great and you can be also.