Sermon Title: Missing the Point
Text: Mark 9:30-50
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me” (Mark 9:30-37, ESV).
It would help if you reread all of Mark 9:30-50, because it paints an amazing—and disturbing—picture. Notice the flow of the narrative . . . Jesus teaches the apostles about his upcoming death and resurrection, and then Mark immediately tells us about the silly argument the disciples were having. And then we learn that the apostles were also concerned about someone outside their tribe who was doing amazing things in Jesus’ name. And then finally we read Jesus’ teaching about how serious sin is.
So think about it—in this section of Scripture we have four stories, and it seems clear that Mark is trying to teach us that we can SO easily get distracted from what really matters. This section begins with Jesus’ teaching about his upcoming death, and it ends with Jesus’ teaching about what sin does to people. And in the middle we have two silly distractions that are keeping the disciples from focusing on what’s really important.
Do we ever do that? Do we ever argue about things that are inconsequential? Do we ever engage in endless debates about trivialities while millions of people live and die without knowing Jesus?
These are important questions that we should wrestle with and pray about.
- How can our class pray for you or a friend or loved one tonight?
Start Reading (read Mark 9:30-50)
- Identify the four distinct-but-related paragraphs in this section. Briefly summarize the point of each paragraph.
- Notice the child in verse 36 and “little ones” in verse 42, as well as the apostles’ argument in verse 34 with Jesus’ admonition for them to “be at peace with one another” (verse 50). How might these verbal clues help us see that the individual stories of this section are related?
- Why do you think the disciples may have been afraid to ask him about what he meant (see verse 32)?
- How were children regarded in the New Testament world? Notice that Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples to become like children in this text; instead, he tells them to learn to receive children (verse 37). What does he mean by that?
- What does Jesus mean by “little ones” (verse 42)?
- What trivialities sometimes distract us from focusing on what’s ultimately important?
- Power struggles? Who gets credit?
- Boundary markers? Focusing on who’s in and who’s out?
- This narrative is bracketed by Jesus’ teaching about his death and resurrection (vv 30-32) and the terrible consequences of sin (vv 42-50). How are those issues of greater importance?
- When we leave here tonight, how do we obey this text? How will you focus on Jesus and what he came to do in the face of myriad distractions?
Start Praying(ACTS acronym)
- Adoration: Worship God in prayer for Jesus’ sacrifice.
- Confession: Confess that we sometimes have allowed distractions to cause us to focus on trivialities.
- Thanksgiving: Thank God for his patience with our pettiness and weaknesses.
- Supplication: Pray for our congregation—that we would truly emphasize what’s most important and refuse to allow Satan to distract us from doing what we’re here to do.