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  • Glenn Rosenbaum

SEE CLEARLY THE STARK CONTRAST!

I. We sinners’ core

II. Our Savior’s concession


Matthew 20:17-28 17 Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” 20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 21 “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” 22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. 23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” 24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Savior we need, dear Christian friends,

Our tagline for this Sunday sermon series for Lent is “you know what you want, but do you know what you need?”. Oftentimes, the difference is a stark contrast, as much as day is different from night. Ten days ago, you walked into a store knowing what you wanted, but now you walk into a store and you know what you need.

A stark contrast is what we have before us today in this account of Matthew’s Gospel. What we see from Jesus and what we see from his disciples are quite the extreme. So, I ask you to look at this Word of God before us today and SEE CLEARLY THE STARK CONTRAST! I. We sinners’ core and II. Our Savior’s concession.

What Jesus had just told his disciples seemed to go in one ear and out the other. “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

This is not the first time they had heard Jesus tell them of his future days (Mt 16:21ff). He wanted them to know what his purpose and goal was. He had come to suffer, to die, but also to rise again! By doing so, they would see him as the Jesus they needed, not necessarily the Jesus they wanted.

But they didn’t understand this yet. They didn’t take to heart the meaning of Jesus’ words. They had their own agenda.

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

While Matthew records this as a mother’s way of making sure her sons would get good things, the Gospel writer Mark tells us James and John actually asked the question for themselves. This is no Biblical contradiction. All three were confused, all three missed the point of Jesus’ earlier words and his overall mission, all three were selfish.

Jesus’ answer was instructive, yet foreboding. “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

They, too, like Jesus, would die, many of them suffering a martyr’s torturous death, as stories of tradition tell us. Yet, what places they would have in heaven would not be known until they arrived there.

Jesus goes on to tell them, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

What was at the core of James and John and their mother is at our core as well— selfishness! “What is in it for me?” “What do I get out of it?” “If it doesn’t benefit me, why would I be involved in it?” All of those questions come from a sinful nature that is ingrained in us since we were conceived in our mother’s womb. All of those questions emit from our mouths and escalate in our lives as Satan comes at us with his temptations.

Our sinful core will hound us every day. Our sinful core will lead us to think we individually deserve those seventy-two rolls of toilet paper more than that family of six needs twelve rolls or that we are entitled to our freedom to drive or fly where we want to and shop when we want to and no government ban is going to take it away from us. Our sinful core goes beyond the day-to-day selfishness and makes us worthy of an eternity in hell.

This is why Jesus came to suffer, die and rise again. He wanted us to be set free from our sinful core and its selfishness so we can live with him in heaven forever. This is why Jesus told his disciples to be selfless servants. He didn’t want their selfishness to lead to thinking they could earn their own salvation and he didn’t want their selfishness getting in the way of someone else knowing about him and his love for all people.

Don’t let what Jesus says here go in one ear and out the other like it seemed to have done for James and John and their mother: the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Our Savior’s concession to the will of his heavenly Father rather than his own, his concession to the suffering and death placed upon him by an unruly mob and unjust leaders, his concession to what was in our best interest rather than his own was not only remarkable, it was redemptive. Remember those words we heard earlier today in the second lesson: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro 8:1).

Our Savior’s concession will lead us to put aside selfishness and look for ways to serve. In response to this COVID-19 crisis and its many restrictions, we have begun a calling committee to reach out to those who are sixty-five and older to help with the possibility of loneliness by giving them someone to speak with and to identify not what they want, but what they need. Obviously, if there are those among us who are younger than sixty-five and need help, we will look for ways to assist them also.

We would like to get another group together who would be willing to meet those needs our members will identify— will they need help with their computer to be able to watch our worship service online?; will they need someone to get groceries for them?; will they need someone to get them to the doctor for a medical emergency?

If you would be willing to be part of this “help group”, contact the church office by phone or email. As requests for help come in, we will direct them back to you and the rest of the “help group”.

There may be other ways we can help one another in our church family and outside of it as well. Let’s look for ways to emulate our Savior and not follow our sinful core that wants to be served, but to remember our Savior’s concession and serve!

When there are so many unknowns in our lives right now, it is so good to know Jesus is the Savior we need! These four weeks of Lent we have investigated “the Jesus we need” and informed you that he is “someone to withstand temptation”, “someone to seek us when we are lost”, “someone to meet our needs” and today “someone to suffer for us”. What else, or better, whom else do we need? Trust him through this present crisis and always for daily living and eternal life!


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