Matters of Tremendous Importance
“And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him. And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.” (Mark 9:30-37)
The Greatest of All Doctrines
“And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him” (vv. 30-32).
The doctrine taught in these verses is the blessed gospel doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the satisfaction of divine justice for our sins by the blood atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ as the sinners’ Substitute. This is the doctrine of the Bible. It is the universal theme and message of Holy Scripture. This is the doctrine God’s servants are sent to preach. This is the message by which the holy Lord God reveals himself to chosen sinners in saving mercy. This is the message by which God’s saints are edified, encouraged, instructed, challenged, and reproved.
In verse 30 we are given a display of divine sovereignty. We are told that the Lord Jesus, when he was passing through Galilee again, “would not that any man should know it. For he taught his disciples.” The Master taught the gospel doctrine concerning his sin-atoning death to his chosen disciples alone. God hides the gospel from some and reveals it to others, according to his own sovereign will and pleasure (Matthew 11:25-27).
The Galileans had seen many mighty displays of our Savior’s person, power, and grace. Yet, they believed not. Therefore, he refused to make himself known to them. That fact is most solemn. I do not find in the Bible a single example of the Son of God crossing a sinner’s path repeatedly. Those who despise him despise life and court destruction. Christ was present, but unknown by the people of Galilee! How often that is the case! Be warned. If you refuse to believe the gospel that has been preached to you, that gospel which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, the gospel itself will be your eternal tormentor in hell (Proverbs 1:23-33). It is written, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).
The glorious sovereignty of our God is also displayed in the sufferings and death of his dear Son. Our Savior here declares, “The Son of Man is delivered into the hands of men.” He spoke of it as a matter already done, because it was done from eternity by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God the Father. Nothing about the death of Christ was accidental. This was the reason why God created the universe. The Son of God came here in time to fulfill what he agreed upon in eternity as our Surety. This was the mission upon which he was sent into the world (Matthew 1:21; 20:28).
The immense importance of Christ’s sin-atoning sacrifice apparently was not yet understood by the disciples. Though he spoke often about it, their religious prejudices and preconceived ideas about what Messiah would do blinded their minds to his doctrine. Do not let those things blind your mind to this glorious, gospel doctrine. Substitution is the sum and substance of the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; Romans 5:6-8). Substitution is the only remedy for sin. The substitutionary sacrifice of Christ is the only hope for sinners. It is the revelation of the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:6) and the joy of redeemed sinners (2 Corinthians 9:15; 1 John 4:9-10, 19). The substitutionary sacrifice of our dear Savior is the motive for all worship, devotion, and service to Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20), and the rallying point of all true believers (Colossians 3:11).
When the Lord Jesus announced that after his death upon the cursed tree he would rise from the dead in three days, he was asserting that by his one great sacrifice for the sins of his people he would completely satisfy the justice of God for us and would thereby forever put away our sins. Whenever we think about this, the greatest of all doctrines, think of it under these terms: Sovereignty, Substitution, Satisfaction, and Success.
The Greatest of All Deceivers
“And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest” (vv. 33-34).
What a strange, what a sad, sad thing this is to see! The Lord Jesus has just told these disciples the greatest of all truths, and they are fussing about who shall be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven! These simple fishermen, chosen, redeemed, and called by pure grace, are arguing with each other about something that is both in direct opposition to grace and in direct opposition to the teachings of Scripture. These brethren were divided because each had a secret longing for preference and pre-eminence!
The sad fact is we are all proud, self-righteous Pharisees by nature. We all think far more highly of ourselves than we ought. We all think we deserve better treatment than we get. We are all easily deceived by this, the greatest of all deceivers, — Pride. The Scriptures warn us constantly about this thing called pride. There is nothing we more abhor in others and more carefully nurture in ourselves than pride.
Pride is a very old sin. It was pride that destroyed Lucifer. It was pride that destroyed Adam and drove him from the garden. It was pride that ruined our race. And it is pride that keeps sinners from the Savior.
Pride is a very blinding sin. These disciples could not understand the glorious gospel doctrine of substitutionary redemption because their minds were occupied with their own visions of grandeur about themselves in the kingdom of heaven!
Pride is a very subtle sin. Where it is the strongest, it is the least detected. It rules multitudes without notice, often wearing the garb of humility. — “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee.”
Pride is a soul-robbing sin. How often men and women miss God’s blessings, especially under the ministry of the Word, because they secretly nurture their own pride. These disciples missed the blessing of Christ’s teachings because of their silly pride.
Pride is the great dividing sin. “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10). “He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat” (Proverbs 28:25). In fact, the cause of all strife, contention, and division between brethren is pride. All hurt feelings are just injured pride. All gossip, the love of talking about people, is pride. Someone once said, “Great minds discuss great ideas and principles. Little minds talk about people.” If that is so, we appear to be living in a world full of mental pigmies.
Pride is a soul-ruining sin. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit” (Proverbs 29:23). Pride keeps sinners from repentance. Pride keeps people from trusting Christ. Pride robs us of peace, personally and with one another. Pride destroys brotherly love. Pride builds fences. Pride promotes self and seeks to pull others down. Pride makes people malicious, uncaring about the feelings of others, self-centered, unforgiving, unbending, unyielding, critical, and volatile.
Ever beware of pride. Nothing is more deceitful. Nothing is more disruptive. Nothing is more unbecoming men and women who belong to the Son of God.
The Greatest of All Deeds
“And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me” (vv. 35-37).
“And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.” — This is our Lord’s standard of true greatness. The world says, “Greatness is ruling over others.” The Son of God says, “Greatness is serving others.” David was a great man, not because he was a mighty king, but because he served his generation by the will of God as their king. Let us not seek honor, attention, and power, but humility, love, and our place of service in Christ’s kingdom.
Far too often, I fear, men confuse carnal ambition for a call to the ministry. Many want to preach because that is the place, they think, of pre-eminence. God’s servants are men who labor in the Word, addict themselves to the service of men’s souls, and seek to serve Christ by faithfully serving the souls of his people. There is a difference.
Empty boasts of orthodoxy are useless. The mere love of good preaching and religious activity is a mockery. If our religion does not translate into serving one another, our religion is a delusion (James 1:25-27).
People who are willing to be last of all, least of all, and servants of all for Christ’s sake are always few. But these are the people who do good, who break down prejudices, who build the kingdom of God.
Just to make sure that we do not miss the meaning of his instruction, our Lord illustrates what he is talking about in verses 36 and 37.
“And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.”
Believers are often compared to little children, because children are easily taught, are not easily offended, forgive quickly, and are very trusting. Usually, unless taught otherwise, children are willing to share whatever they have with others.
Anything done for or to one of God’s children is considered as being done for him or to him. Do we really believe that? If we did, we would be more thoughtful and caring about one another, and we would be far more guarded in our attitudes toward one another. This is true godliness. These are the things the Bible calls “good works”. Children of God, LOVE ONE ANOTHER!
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