Jeff Grisham

Bella Vista Church of Christ


Service: A Foundational Stone

Sunday evening, March 26, 2017

Text: Mark 10: 35-45


Tonight we are going to continue our series on the seven foundational stones with a look at service. 


When we think of this attribute, where do we go?  We could go to Galatians 6.9-10:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.


Or do we go to Romans 12, where Paul talks about the church as a body with many members and that we are “members of one another.” He goes on there to say:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.


Then there is Matthew 25 and that great picture of judgment that Jesus draws for us.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’


It seems that this idea of serving one another is found all over the New Testament, and we could look at these passages tonight, plus many more.  But we are going to look at another text on serving to encourage us tonight.  It is Mark chapter 10.  So make your way to Mark 10 and we will begin reading in verse 35.


35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


We all want to be first.  Now, I realize that is a general statement and there may be some here tonight that can honestly say,“I don’t want to be great.  I don’t want to be first.”  If that is you, then God bless you.  But for many of the rest of us, we want to be first.  Not only do we want to be first, not only do we want to be great, but we are surrounded by other people who want to be great, or want to be first.  About one trip up and down I-49 can tell you that.  If that doesn’t convince you, just go to Walmart and take a look around, particularly up by the cash registers. 


The good news (if this is in fact good news) is that we didn’t just get this way.  We, humans, have been this way since the beginning.  In Genesis 3 the temptation was not to satisfy hunger; it was to become wise – great – like God.  But, as followers of Jesus, surely this just goes away, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, no.  We see it in this narrative in Mark 10.  Here we have two men who have followed Jesus for close to 3 years.  And as Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to face his crucifixion, they have their own greatness on their minds.  “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”  We can only imagine why they felt the need to ask this question at this point.  Only a short while before, they along with Peter had confirmed that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.  Now, after he had told them about his death again they decided that they had better make sure they were afforded these positions.  Whatever the reason for the timing, we see their desire for greatness in the kingdom.  Jesus tells them (and us) how this is accomplished. 

.42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This has to seem backwards to them, right?  The way to greatness is by becoming a slave? This is not the way the world works. We look around and see that those who are great and powerful do not serve others.  In fact, they have other people serve them.  This is not the way the world works.  Jesus says, “You are exactly right.  The world has tried this since the beginning, and it has never worked!” In fact, the desire for greatness and power is the reason that we are in the shape we are. 


We live in a unique time.  Maybe this will help to illustrate what I mean.  In his book, Preaching to Pluralists, Chris Altrock relates an encounter between one of the teens from his congregation and his unchurched friend.  This young Christian had invited one of his friends to services there at Highlands in Memphis and he had come for a week or two.  Then he stopped coming.  When their member asked his friend why, his response was that “he had decided he could worship God best by himself.  He had no problem with our doctrine or teaching.  But he had concluded that the best way he could grow closer to God was to worship God privately, apart from organized church. He had come to the view that church was irrelevant to meeting his spiritual needs.”   Did we hear the individualism expressed in that response?  You see, church, centuries ago the church was seen as a real place of authority.  As time went on, people began to see abuses in that authority and wanted to learn for themselves what the Bible had to say.  That authority, once held by the church continued to erode until we find ourselves today in a culture that sees no authority in the church.  Maybe those outside (as well as some inside) don ‘t see the church as possessing any authority because we have violated this principle laid down by Jesus.  Could it be that the church has tried to exercise authority instead of serving? 


Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying.  The church does have some authority.  But it is only the authority given to it by Jesus.


I don’t think that we need to spend time defining service.  If so, we really don’ t need to go further than Paul in Philippians 2.1-4 where he says that we should put the needs of others ahead of our own.  I don’t think we need to spend time looking at scripture to be convinced of our need to serve. If so, we could review some of the passages that we have already mentioned to do that; Matthew 25, Romans 12, or Galatians 6 would certainly do that. 


If we know what service is, and we know that we are commanded to serve, what is keeping us from doing it?  What are some things that may get in our way when it comes to serving others, as we should?  For that let’s look at the sections of Mark 10 that lead up to our text for tonight. 


In verses 1-12 we find Jesus dealing with the Pharisees over the question of divorce.  When Jesus gave the answer to their initial question, they disagreed on the basis of their traditions.  Do we ever do that?  Do we say to Jesus, “We really like what you’re doing and would love to have you join us, if you will endorse our traditions.”? 


Then in verses 13-16 we find the disciples excluding the children from the presence of Jesus.  It appears that the disciples didn’t see these little ones as bringing anything of value to the movement, so they decided that it would be best if they weren’t under their feet and in the way.  Do we look at others who need help and say, “It might be a good idea to help them, but what are they bringing to the table?” 


In verses 17-22 we find a rich young man. This guy looked promising didn’t he? He has money, authority, good morals. He’s just the kind of guy we want in the organization.  But, when Jesus told him that he would have to give up his possessions, the cost was too high.  He wanted to be in control of what he had.  Surely that is not us, is it? 


I want us to look at what these things have in common with the idea of serving others.   We have the group that knows who they are based on their traditions, another who believes they know who they are based on their expectations of Jesus, and another young man whose identity is tied to his possessions.  In each case, what Jesus asks is to give up who we think we are to become his and to serve others.  Are we willing?


James and John (just like us) wanted Jesus to do for them without first doing for him.  We want Jesus to live up to our expectations.  What expectations does he have for us as his followers?  It’s easy to see right there in the text; serve. 


If we want to know what that looks like, Jesus shows us. 


21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.