As we are introduced to other adults, we usually are told (or we ask) “what they do for a living;” and when we meet children we ask, “What grade are you in?” A devotion writer said that he was surprised one time when he asked a child, “What grade are you in?” and the child replied, “I’m in 2nd grade, what grade are you in?” The writer at first didn’t quite know how to respond, but after a few quick thoughts, he did some quick math, figuring that most of us start school at least by the age of five, so… subtracting five from his age, she said, “I guess I’m in the 35th grade!” But later, with some further reflection, he pondered if maybe he had missed a grade or more along the way – not learning what he should have learned during some of those years (having to repeat some grades or not getting promoted?) The question for us is, “What grade are you in? Are you still learning, or have you stopped learning?”
What “grade” would you say Jesus’ disciples were in? As we read in the second half of Mark 9: 30-31: “Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because He was teaching His disciples.”
Jesus was always teaching (through His Words, actions, miracles, healings, raising from the dead, etc.) In these verses, He specifically is teaching with His words – and some of them are very HARD to understand – especially “The Third and Hardest Lesson”!
Three “lessons” that Jesus teaches His disciples and us – to help us remember them, I’ve labeled them G E D (“borrowed from the educational systems GED – General Educational Development tests)
G – greatness in service – Mark 9:33-37
E – exclusiveness excluded – Mark 9:38-41
D – disciplined disciples – Mark 9:42-50
The First Lesson: 1) Greatness in Service – (v.33-37)
In these verses the disciples had been arguing on the way about who was the greatest? The disciples were worried about competition with each other rather than “learners and co-workers” with Jesus. So Jesus teaches the first lesson: GREATNESS in SERVICE – “If anyone wants to be first (all of the disciples DID! So do we – it’s our sinful, human nature) he must be the very last, and the servant of all… welcoming one of these little children in My name.”
The Second Lesson: 2) Exclusiveness Excluded – (v.38-41)
John said, “We saw a man driving out demons in Your name and we kept telling him to stop, because he was not one of us!” Did they think that Jesus would work only through the 12 of them? Were they so “self-centered on their own greatness” that they were blinded to Jesus working His miraculous release from demons through another man?
Have we learned the lesson? We confess, “I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints,” and yet do we exclude from the Kingdom of God fellow Christians who are proclaiming the Gospel message and through whom God is working to build His Kingdom even though we have differing church practices and denominational titles? “In Jesus’ name” means with the truth of God’s Word and through saving faith in Jesus – regardless of whether they are “one of us” or not.
And now, The Third and Hardest Lesson: 3) Disciplined Disciples (v.42-50)
These verses are hard verses to understand and very shocking to read! Jesus is most definitely using “hyperbole” (exaggeration), for cutting off our hands or feet, plucking out our eye will not necessarily stop our sinning – but Jesus speaks these exaggerations to teach the self-centered, power grabbing disciples (and us!) what they haven’t learned so far… “Don’t you dare get in the way of the Gospel – Don’t you dare “cause yourself or anyone else to sin!” The WORST punishment is threatened if you do – not just physically drowning with a millstone tied around your neck, but eternity in HELL “where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched!” (v.48) WOW, what a warning!
And finally, the summary of these three lessons: “Everyone will be salted with fire.” (v.49) has the teaching of making a difference: (Romans 12:1-2) “In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed (“salted with fire” by the Holy Spirit) by the renewing of your mind.”
Jesus’ teaches three lessons –
G (greatness in service) – “Have salt in yourselves …
E (No exclusiveness – Jesus says, “Do not stop anyone who does anything ‘in My name.’) and be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)
D (disciplined disciples) – (“have salt in yourselves / the salt and fire of the Holy Spirit)
What grade are you in? With Jesus as our teacher WE NEVER STOP LEARNING – and as we have the opportunities – to pass these truths on to others! In Jesus’ precious name!
God’s blessings this week as we continue to learn from God’s Word every day in Bible Study and devotions – and as we come together next weekend again to receive his wonderful gifts of Word and Sacraments.