18th Sun. aft. Pentecost
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
October 15, 2000
(Comedian Rodney Dangerfield is always looking for respect and always complains that he never receives it. To be respected by others is truly a gift from the Lord, for it is His working in us, through Word and Sacrament, that enables us to live as respectable people. In the Gospel lesson today, the apostles also wanted respect. Perhaps it would help us to understand that questions of rank and status were a normal part of life among Jewish groups, but it becomes clear that according to our Lord’s value system, such distinctions held no attraction at all. If ever there was a man who walked the face of this earth who demonstrated the true nature of greatness, it was Christ. What is amazing is that His greatness was achieved by living as the servant of all mankind, withholding nothing for Himself and giving all to us. Let us examine this text and see what kind of life we too are to live as children of the Lord Jesus Christ, the servant of servants.
I. THE WORLD SEEKS RESPECT THROUGH THE EXERCISE OF INTIMIDATION AND FEAR.
A. Worldly power works through fear:
1. Fear of someone or something stronger than you.
a. Big, strong nations carry a big stick and lesser nations step aside.
b. Someone with lots of money can exercise power over those who don’t.
c. Someone with political connections with the politically powerful can get
things done when others get nowhere.
2. ILLUS: All of us can remember the class “bully” that made our lives miserable
when we were growing up.
a. Their tools were physical strength and fellow bully’s who backed them
b. We did not comply with their demands because we wanted to, but
because we felt we had to.
B. The apostles were attempting to obtain respect through worldly means.
1. The drive to be “first” was in them as it is often is us.
a. To be “first” is to receive deference from others.
b. To be “first” is to be the recipients of preference over others.
2. What lies behind our drive to be first…pride and selfishness.
a. Here the apostles are dwelling.
b. It is to this problem of pride that Jesus addresses the nature of obtaining
God’s respect rather than men’s.
II. GOD GRANTS RESPECT TO FALLEN HUMANITY THROUGH HIS SON.
A. God’s respect cannot be earned.
1. Our humility and service do not measure up to God’s perfect standard.
a. Like the apostles, we would rather be served than to serve.
b. Usually our service to other has a mixed motivation.
c. Our pride gets in the way of our service, “I’ve served more than you
have.”, we say.
2. We give in to the mistaken impression that we think we can earn God’s respect
by our humble serving.
a. Jesus refused to seek people’s respect under any false pretense.
b. The beginning of having God’s respect is to openly acknowledging
the disrespect of our sinful lives.
B. God’s respect is something that is given as a free gift.
1. It is God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who earns respect for us.
a. He is the Humble One who serves us all the way to the cross and tomb.
b. His conquest of death in His resurrection, permits our entry into God’s
respect for those who are in Christ Jesus.
2. When we are called to faith in Christ, we have absolute assurance that we have
God’s respect, because our respect lies in His respect for His Son.
a. Jesus has given us His humility in exchange for our selfish pride.
b. In exchange for our mixed motives, Jesus gives us the purity of His own.
III. HOW DOES THIS DIVINELY RECEIVED RESPECT SHOW ITSELF?
A. So that both the apostles and we would understand, Jesus calls a child to His
1. The apostles are concerned for earthly recognition that they might be well
a. To receive this child is to provide for all of his needs.
b. To receive this child is to serve this child in the name of Jesus…in other
words, as though this child were Christ Himself.
c. It is as though this child’s care would be rendered with the same
devotion and love that we would lavish on the Christ Himself, were He with us personally.
2. Jesus is saying to us that such service is that which make a person great in the
kingdom of heaven.
a. And so He confirms when he says, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me:…”
b. What would life in this world be like if that were the way in which we
human beings really treated each other?
B. This Greatness is not merely for one, but for all!
1. Jesus never discourages the apostle’s quest for greatness, He just redefines it!
a. He wants us all to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
b. This kind of greatness is not just for one person, but all are called to be
the greatest in the kingdom which is to come.
2. What contrast is this to the seeking after greatness in this world!
a. ILLUS: Remember Cassius Clay, aka. Mohammed Ali…
b. This was self-advancement, not the advancement of others.
Everyone wants to leave his or her mark on the world. We’d love it, if when we passed on, someone would say that our lives made a positive difference in this world. Jesus is graciously holding out the key to that result. It runs counter to every piece of worldly wisdom about greatness that has ever been spoken, but it is utterly true. If we want to be truly great, then it is in the eyes of God that such greatness is found. If we want our existence to truly make a difference, then we must respect the salvation that is ours in Christ Jesus, and begin to see the world with new eyes. Eyes that see each other and treat each other as though it were Jesus Christ Himself we encounter in our every day lives. It is only through our faith, given us by God’s grace in Christ that will enable us serve in true greatness. In His name. Amen.
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