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Who Is the Greatest?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
December 27, 2020 12:01 am

Who Is the Greatest?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 27, 2020 12:01 am

After Jesus' disciples argued about who would be greatest in the kingdom of God, the Lord brought a little child before them. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his exposition of Mark to observe the surprising way in which true greatness is to be exhibited.

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The disciples were engaged in an argument and Jesus wants to know what it's about. They were overcome with shame as well they should have been our Lord. I just told them that he is on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die and their having a debate that we find out now was what who will be the greatest among them in the coming kingdom the furnace. We can probably relate to the disciples. So often we get distracted by petty squabbles about who's better work should be in charge as we listen to Dr. RC Sproul sermon today will be reminded of our role as servants. We welcome you to the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind receives message today is from Mark chapter 9 now on several occasions. Jesus has warned his disciples about what awaits him in the holy city, and Mark begins this section by telling us that they departed from where they were and passed through Galilee. Remember at the Mount of Transfiguration. They were above Galilee.

Now they have to come back through Galilee and make their way further south to Jerusalem. This is the last time that Mark tells us of Jesus spending any time in Galilee where most of his ministry up to this point had been located until after the resurrection, and then we are told that he did not want anyone to know where he was and he taught his disciples again, saying to them, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men and they will kill him, and after he is killed he will rise. The third day, but they didn't understand this thing and they were afraid to ask him about it now in the passage that I read to you. There are three things that I want us to note as we examine this incident in the life of Jesus and his disciples.

The first is the one he announces again that he will be delivered into the hands of men for the end that he will be kill when he makes this statement. The translation I just read to you. I believe it's a little bit faulty where it reads as follows, he said to them, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men. Notice it's in the present tense and is say that that action of being betrayed into the hands of men has all ready started. Jesus is not making a future prediction of what will happen when he gets to Jerusalem, but is talking about something that is already in operation. I don't like the use of the term betrayed here. It has some sense to it because obviously what will happen to Jesus when he arrives in Jerusalem is that one from his own group will betray him to the authorities that want to put him to death. But what is in view in this teaching of Jesus in the first instance is not the action of Judas or of the disciples or of any other people in this world. The primary point that Jesus is making is that he at this very moment is now being handed over or delivered. That's why the translators use the term betrayed. But what I object to it is that the person or the one who was handing over Jesus to men is the father and when the father delivers the son into the hands of men. It is not an act of divine betrayal.

Of course on the cross. The father forsakes the son but from all eternity. It was the agreement among the members of the Trinity that the father would send the son into the world to bring about his plan of salvation for his people and the son and the spirit agreed to that mission from eternity.

But now the point in the mission is taking place where for Jesus to fulfill his office as Messiah. He has to be delivered into the hands of evil men and Jesus acquiesces to that deliverance and it is the father who gives him over to sinful flesh because Jesus comes to do the will of the father and for Jesus to do the will of the father. Jesus must suffer at the hands of sinful people so the point comments were the father hands them over to fulfill his destiny for the disciples don't understand these things and then we read that he came to Capernaum and this is the last reference to Jesus visiting Capernaum in the gospel of Mark when he was in the house he set them what was it that you disputed among yourselves on the road. Jesus notices they were traveling to Capernaum that the disciples were bickering one with another, and it was obvious to our Lord that they were unhappy with each other. They were in a heated argument, they were debating with each other and Jesus now says them tell me what we arguing about what were you fighting about what's her answer was no answer was absolute silence among the disciples because when Jesus asked him what they were arguing about. They were overcome with shame and embarrassment as well they should have been our Lord. I just told them that he is on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die and their having a debate that we find out now was what who will be the greatest among them in the coming kingdom that's with her argument who will be number one who will be at his right hand will be at his left hand. Who will be in this position of the greatest notice.

The question concerns the superlative. This is an issue that we deal with in our discussions all the time we argue about who the greatest singer was of all time. We argue about who the greatest baseball player was well not good enough that people are great that they distinguish themselves in the superlative wife but we want to know.

Among those who are great, who's really the greatest course, Mohammed Ali settle that question for us once and for all when he announced to the world that he was the greatest will the people who were asking about who would be the greatest should have asked that question to the one who was and is the greatest.

The only one who deserves that superlative degree of greatness, even Jesus himself. But notice how he responds to them.

He sat down and summoned his disciples after the inquiry. What were you arguing about.

He finds out what their argue about because nobody sits down and calls them over. What does that indicate he's now assuming the position and the posture of formal teaching. Remember, in those days, the rabbis didn't stand to teach. They sat down and then the pupils would gather and sit at his feet. So when Jesus sits down and calls his disciples to himself. It is the signal that he's about to teach them something and to teach them something important. So after he sits down and they assemble he said to them if anyone desires to be first shall be last of all and servant of all.

In this statement Jesus turns the values in the aspirations of all human beings upside down every person among us is born with an aspiration for significance.

We want our lives to count.

We do not want to fail in whatever goals we pursue in our law.

The last thing we want to do is to come in last and were not satisfied with mediocrity. We dream of glory of winning, of reaching the pinnacle of success of getting to the top of us reaching and attaining greatness and beyond greatness, the glory of being the greatest. That's what Frederick Nietzsche called the will to power that beats in the heart of every human being. We want to scale the corporate ladder and reach the top, to be king of the hill and Jesus said you want that okay if you want to be great.

Let me give you the recipe for greatness. If you have this aspiration for significance.

If you want your life to count if you really want to be first in the kingdom you must choose to be last.

This is the paradox of Jesus teaching. He uses this method a paradox again and again if you want to live you have to die if you want to save your life you have to lose your life want to be great you have to suffer because he who is first shall be last, and he who was last shall be first, and he said the way to greatness is the way of service you want to be great than be the greatest servant you could possibly be. But you see we don't associate greatness with servants, remember the time were Winston Churchill had a verbal tiff with one of his servants, and Churchill had been abusive with his language as he chastise his servant and the servant had all of it that he could handle and so finally the servant talk back to Sir Winston Churchill in the same tone of voice that Churchill had spoke to him Churchill said. To a certain who do you think you are talking to me like that, and the servant cowered back but he said with Sir Winston. That's the way you talk to me and Churchill looked at the servant said.

But I am a great man scrub the lowest point of Churchill's life that he appealed to his own greatness to excuse the meaning one of his sermons were.

Churchill didn't understand at that moment was that greatness is found in service. There's a distinction we make in theology between Othello. Gloria and attire.

Loki accrued sis is the difference between what we call the theology of glory, as distinguished from the theology of the cross we want glory without the cross we want greatness without humiliation.

Batista said you can get it that way.

And what Jesus taught. Here was not an abstract principle of life. It was the principle that he was living out in front of his disciples every single day of finally to punctuate his point here he uses an old prophetic method of an object lesson where he summons the little boy and he takes this child in set him in the midst of them, and then he picked them up in his arms and he said to his disciples.

Whoever receives one of these little children in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives, not me. But the one who sent me know in our culture little babies are considered adorable aren't they somebody just asked me this week if I want to tell somebody who's not a Christian about God, give me a word that I can use to express the nature of God.

One word lesson will here's one I so wanted to speak of God's being adorable. She can look at me funny like what I don't think I can use that one.

But here's what I suggested it. I said when we use the word adorable were talking about some cute young lady or were talking about little children, but that which is eminently adorable.

Is God, but we have this view of little babies and when we see the little baby was always in the door, but in the ancient world were the mortality rate was so high that the vast majority of babies who were born perished before they were five years old a little child was not considered very significant. Until that child reached an age where it was assumed that he would be a bore, she would be able to survive the majority. And so Jesus takes a little child who is not considered of great dignity like they are in our culture and picks up the child so you want to be great. Whoever receives this child in my name receives me. He appoints not the 12 to the position of greatness.

Not one of the 12 to be his ambassador to be his emissary to be his spokesman to the world except this baby's little boy. Here's my emissary. Here's the one who will go out in my name. Here is the one who will represent me, and whoever receives this child receives me, and whoever receives me receives the father who sent me, that principle Jesus uses again and again and again that explodes the critics of our day who say Jesus we love. It's the apostles we don't like. I can't stand Paul. I can't stand either. I can't stand Jason all but I like Jesus.

Jesus would have none of that. If you don't receive those whom I send in my name you don't receive me and if you don't receive me you don't receive the father.

So Jesus would have none of this business about people safe. We believe in the father but we don't believe in Jesus. If you don't believe in Jesus you don't believe in God.

That's what he saying this radical stuff he receives this child receives me he receives me receives the one who sent me. Now the third aspect more while this discussion of who receives whom who's following whom John interrupts and he said Lord we saw one of these exorcists out there casting out demons in your name but they were not part of us here that they were part of us. So we stopped them.

We forbade them from continuing their ministry in your name because they didn't belong to our group that's unfamiliar notice that whoever was doing this exorcism, though, was not a member of the 12 and was, not a follower of the disciples was a follower of Jesus he followed Jesus. But in follow Jesus's disciples wasn't part of their group.

So Jesus said don't forbid him. No one works a miracle in my name and then afterwards, speaks evil of me, for he is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ.

The shortly Ice Age you he will by no means lose his reward. I remember when I was in graduate school and the more I studied theology.

The more I was exposed to the great thinkers of traditions different from my own great Lutheran theologians great Anglican theologians, and so on and reading their works. I began to see where they concentrated on certain things that in my own tradition were basically ignored and I discovered that there was much to learn from the Lutherans.

There were things that I can learn from the Episcopalians.

Not that I would go to the place and say there's no difference among us there are differences. Nor was I going to say that the differences are on important, but there's a difference. The we have to make between matters that are different and important and issues that are of the essence of the Christian faith. Now there are people that I know who will not tolerate any difference from their theology from other groups. If a person differs at any point, whether it's over baptism, whether it's over arts, whether it's over justification.

Whether it's over predestination. If somebody differs from us they're not saved they're not in the kingdom. That's not just foolishness. That's sinfulness to assume that all differences divide us. Ultimately is nonsense and so you have those people who were so narrow, who have just enough knowledge to be dangerous, that they assume that anybody that differs with them has to be on their way to hell. You have that group and there are plenty in that group then you have the group over here that says no difference is essential. Doesn't matter what you believe as long as your sincere and we have to say a pox on both your houses because what the New Testament calls us to do is to discern the difference between a central issues and non-essential issues and here Jesus had to teach these disciples that that the only real soon this exorcists had committed was that he wasn't following the disciples there. Lots of people out there folks who don't do worship the way we do who don't share the same confession of faith that we who are ministering in the name of Jesus, and we have to appreciate and embrace authentic ministry where ever we find we also have to distance ourselves from heresy whenever we find that so what is required is discernment the discernment that the disciples lacked. At that point in the fatal act that after three years in the seminary of Jesus, how likely is it for us to gain such discernment quickly. We have to appreciate everything that is done in the name of Jesus.

Even those who give a cup of cold water to somebody who's thirsty when they give it in the name of Jesus, that person is recognized by Christ. That doesn't mean that you get into the kingdom by giving a glass of water to somebody.

But the point is that Christ knows and appreciates any time he is honored by anyone who honors his own was imperative for Jesus to get these points across. If they were ever going to understand what was waiting for them in Jerusalem. That's a great distinction between essentials and nonessentials is in it and about you, but to recognizing that the disciples struggled in this area gives me hope that I can grow there as well.

Thanks for listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Sunday. I'm Lee Webb and we have just heard another message from Dr. RC Sproul sermon series on the Gospel of Mark today would you give a donation of any amount to look in your ministries. We like to send you Dr. Stroh's commentary on this gospel. It's a hardbound volume with more than 400 pages, all with RC's signature easy-to-read explanation of each verse.

You can go online to

Among the many things that we gain by studying God's word is discernment. With that in mind, let me recommend roughneck to 24 hours a day, you have access to biblical teaching and preaching for many of today's most trusted teachers, all from a reformed perspective. You can download the free rough net app to listen on the go or you can listen at any As we look ahead to next week's message here are couple questions to ponder is hell a real place and will God send people there is a controversial topic in next week.

RC will address it as we continue his verse by verse series from the Gospel of Mark, we hope you'll join us for Renewing Your Mind

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