To help prepare for Christ’s Service to us in Word and Sacrament this Sunday, you may wish to pre-read the lessons before hand.
Old Testament: Jeremiah 11:18-20
Epistle: James 3:13-4:10
Gospel: Mark 9:14-29
NOTE: Rev. David Stechholz, President & Bishop of the English District of The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod will be with us this Sunday!
Jeremiah has been told by the Lord to no longer pray for Judah or the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They have once again forsaken the true worship of God and sought after the worship of Baal. Therefore, God has decreed disaster upon them. The life of the prophet is also in danger. He has been ordered not to speak in the Name of the Lord or he will be put to death. In this our text, we see the cruciform (cross-shaped) life of God’s prophet and all who would remain faithful to God. However, we have God’s promise that these trials and sufferings will not separate us from the love of God in Christ. Though we are “regarded as sheep to be slaughtered,” we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:36-39)
St. James is inspired by the Holy Spirit to confront our worldliness and remind us that it is our haughtiness and arrogance that leads to strife and quarrels. He goes on to tell us to submit ourselves to the God who has revealed that He is a good and gracious God. Through God’s good gifts given through His son, we ought humble ourselves, admit our faults, and cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. Through faith in Christ, we humbly receive His mercy and goodness. What’s more, in Christ, God raises us up “together [with Him] and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6). Therefore, we have no need for petty bickering and quarreling. All things are already ours in Christ.
Mark records three instances where Jesus predicts His death. The first is a week before Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the mount of Transfiguration. The second is just after they come down from that mountain and Jesus casts out the demon from a boy. The main point to this prediction is that the disciples did not understand what He was saying. What’s more, they were afraid to ask Him about it. No doubt, they had concluded He is much more than a rabbi and teacher. He is also clearly much more than a prophet. It seems odd, then, that as they walk in the presence of one so great, they should begin to argue about who among them is the greatest. Wouldn’t their time be much better spent listening to Him teach them? What might they have learned if the asked what it meant that He would die and rise again? What may have been gained by them to know what awaited Him in Jerusalem? Instead, they seem more interested in who will succeed Him when He dies. Jesus settles their argument about who among them is the greatest by pointing to Himself. “If one would be first, He will become last and a servant of all.” This is what Jesus death and resurrection means. He has made Himself last – suffering the indignity and shame of a criminals death even though He was innocent of any wrongdoing. As He did so, He served. He taught. He healed. He saved. He protected. Finally, He gave His life so that we would be rescued from the shame and indignity of our criminal acts in always seeking to be first and greatest. Now, He puts us to work as His instruments to reach out to others with the love of a God who comes to save even sinners like you and me. He leads us to receive others, even the most overlooked of society, and love them and care for them, accepting – sin and warts and all – just as we would accept a child. And as we do so, we receive not only Him and His love, but we receive the love of the Father who sent the Son to redeem and save us.