O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Authority of the Servant
The Authority of the Servant
Based on Mark 10:35-45
Preached on March 22, 2015
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Fellow baptized saints, I tried to think of an illustration for what Jesus is saying in our text this morning - and I couldn't. Do you know why I couldn't think of a picture of what He is teaching? Do you know why I couldn't find any example other than Christ Himself? Because what Jesus teaches His disciples today mankind doesn't do. What Jesus teaches His disciples today is something only He does. And this simple fact alone, should make us stop and ponder.
How does authority work? What makes someone powerful? These are the questions being asked today. And if we think of what first comes to mind, or if we look around at the way the world works, we will not get what Jesus is saying. Because mankind has it all wrong. We think of it all wrong. If in our sinful nature, we were going to draw a picture of authority or power, we would draw a pyramid, with the most powerful at the top and all the impotent masses at the bottom. And we would understand our goal in life to be one of trying to make it to the top. Trying to "get ahead" by being first. By beating others out. Pushing others down. Eventually cheating and lying and doing whatever it takes to get more power and authority.
When you take an honest look at the way the world works, you know this it. And when you take an honest look at the way you work, the way you think, you know you have been caught up in it. And the terrifying thing, is that this pyramid of power and authority is sin and death. It is a deception of the devil. For Jesus said, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you." My kingdom is not shaped like a pyramid. It is shaped like a cross.
This should be somewhat alarming for us, because it means that it doesn't matter why you do it, when you think of someone as though they are less than you, you've sinned. When you look down on them, or consider them to be less important than you, even if they have done something "you would never do," you've been deceived by your flesh, deceived by this fallen world and deceived by the Evil One who brought us all into ruin this very way. For if our perfect God put Himself beneath us sinners to save us, how is it that you exalt yourself over anyone?
But you have - you mighty lord - you do it all the time, and the truth is, you can't help yourself. It is automatic, because you're a slave to it. Even if you will never be at the top of the pyramid, you secretly love revelling in those moments when you can tell yourself that at least you are better than "those" people. At least you're higher up than them. You are a slave to sin and death, a crony of Pharaoh and his pyramid of lies.
But take heart, for just as God set His people free from slavery under Pharaoh, Christ came to buy you back from sin and death and turn this pyramid on its head. "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all." Jesus is talking about Himself. He calls Himself the slave of all, because that's what it means to be first, to put everyone else ahead of you. He didn't scratch and bite and pull to get to the top, to get above you. He was above you, but He came down from heaven for you and for your salvation, and was made man, and was crucified also for you under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. Then He rose and ascended into heaven, but still He did it for you. This shape of His life is not a pyramid, but one that is upside down, standing on its point. He came down that He might be beneath us, so that He could lift us up out of our slavery in His own death and resurrection.
Christianity is not about power. It is about dying and rising. It is an upside down pyramid - **One standing on its point for the sake of the many - One hanging on the cross for the sake of the many. The life of One - given as a ransom - for the sake of the many. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Do you see the price that was paid for your release from slavery? Do you see what it cost to free you? Christ has purchased and won you, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. God's own life was paid for yours. That was the price required and that was the price Christ paid.
But isn't this true authority? Isn't this the authority Jesus speaks of? I have authority to lay down my life and I have authority to take it up again - because I came to serve - to serve you my life - to serve you my righteousness - to serve you the most precious thing I have - this is God's grace.
Only Christ can build the pyramid upside down. No other builder can make it stand this way. For there is nothing more powerful, nothing more precious, nothing more worthy than the blood of Christ shed for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins. And on this blood His Church is built. Christ is your servant. Your slave. Your cornerstone. And He spilled His blood that you may live.
What do you think? Do you want to be great? Look at Christ. Die and rise in Him. True greatness is serving others in your vocations. Are you a mother, father, son, daughter, husband, wife or worker? Then you have been called to serve. Learn to love serving while you are dying and rising in Christ. Give yourself away to others, knowing you live in the eternal righteousness of Christ. Let Him be your greatness. Your security. For your life is completely paid for. The blood of your slave has been shed for you, and now you will live forever, so follow His lead and give your life to those who need you, give it to this congregation and the ministry here, that others may hear of their Redeemer and God may be glorified for all He has done.
No, left to yourself there is no hope, only clawing and grasping for a peak you will never reach. But you are in Christ. Put there by Him in Baptism. You live in His death and resurrection, so that you can put everyone ahead of you. You rest in His humble authority, so that you can serve people the way they need you to. You are built up on Christ, so that you can give your time to the work of this congregation, that others may be brought to His cross. This is not about power. It is about grace. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr