Sermon title:  THE SAME LESSON, OVER AND OVER AGAIN

Mark 9:33-35; 10:35-45; Luke 22:24-30

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, February 2, 2020

 

 

 

I heard a story once

about a church that hired a new pastor,

and after he gave his first sermon,

several people told him they liked it:

“Nice sermon, pastor,” they said.

 

The next week he gave the exact same sermon.

 

No one said anything.

 

They assumed he must have mixed up his notes

and brought the old set of notes to the pulpit, by mistake.

 

Then the third week he again gave the same sermon—

word for word the same.

 

This time the Deacons came over to him together

after the service, and asked him,

“Pastor, haven’t you

preached the same sermon to us 3 weeks in a row.”

 

“Yes, I realize that,” he answered.

 

The Deacons looked at each other, puzzled.

 

Then one of them asked,

“Are you planning to preach the same sermon again

next week?”

 

He answered,

“That depends on you.

 

If you start putting into action

 what I preached in this sermon,

I’ll move on to another topic.

 

But, if you still haven’t learned this lesson,

I guess I will have to repeat it again.”

 

Now, I’m not sure if that’s a true story

or just an illustration

that keeps getting passed around.

 

In the real world,

I don’t think a pastor would keep his job very long

taking that forceful and aggressive approach.

 

But, the Lord finds it necessary

to teach us the same lessons over and over again.

 

He did that with his First Century apostles and disciples,

and he does that with us, too.

 

He may not do it like the new pastor in the illustration

who preached the exact same sermon,

word-for-word,

week after week.

 

But Jesus repeats the same lessons,

over and over again,

using different words,

and at different times.

 

And that’s what we encounter this morning,

as our chronological coverage of the Gospels

brings us to our Lord’s final week on earth

before he went to the cross.

In fact, we’re still looking at the Last Supper,

when Christ spent his final evening on earth

sharing the Jewish Passover dinner with his apostles.

 

We spoke last week

about how Jesus got up from the table,

put aside his outer garments,

wrapped a towel around his waist,

and washed the dirty feet of his apostles.

 

His aim was to teach them

a lesson he had tried to teach them before,

on other occasions—

the lesson that they should be servant leaders:

serving one another

and serving the churches,

rather than ruling over them.

 

It was a lesson that the disciples still hadn’t learned—

even after spending over 3 years

following Jesus and watching his example.

 

So, he interrupted his last meal with them

to teach them that lesson again.

But now, as we turn to Luke 22:24,

and continue to look at that Last Supper

we pick up where we left off,

and we see that something else happens

that shows how much the disciples

still needed to learn.

 

It’s in the 3rd section of this morning’s Responsive Reading.

 

Luke 22:24 says,

 

24 A dispute also arose among them

as to which of them

was considered to be greatest.

 

I’m sure they weren’t debating this openly,

right in front of Jesus’ face,

because he had rebuked them in the past

over the same issue.

 

It must have been at a moment

when Jesus wasn’t addressing them as a group,

but rather all those at the dinner

were just talking among themselves.

 

There were enough people present at that Last Supper

that such an argument could break out

at one end of the table,

without immediately catching the attention

of everyone else in the room.

 

So, there they were, arguing among themselves

as to which one of them was the greatest.

 

It was the same dispute that Mark Chapter 9 tells us

the apostles had gotten into on an earlier occasion,

when they were all walking together

on the road to Capernaum.

 

They must have spread out along the road, as they walked,

with Jesus perhaps talking with the women

who accompanied them,

or with some others,

while the apostles formed a group among themselves,

either some distance ahead or behind.

 

So, we read at Mark 9:33,

 

33 They came to Capernaum.

 

When he was in the house, he asked them,

 

“What were you arguing about on the road?”

 

34 But they kept quiet

because on the way they had argued about

who was the greatest.

 

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said,

 

“Anyone who wants to be first

must be the very last,

and the servant of all.”

 

They “kept quiet” and didn’t want to admit to Jesus

that they had been arguing

about which one of them was the greatest.

 

Somehow, they knew that he would disapprove.

 

This is the first instance we know of

where Christ rebuked them

for such thinking.

 

But, maybe they had been rebuked on this before.

 

Maybe that’s why they knew he would disapprove.

In any case, Jesus went on

to give them a very strong rebuke this time.

 

According to Matthew’s Gospel in Matthew 18:2,

 

2 He called a little child to him,

and placed the child among them.

 

3 And he said: “Truly I tell you,

unless you change

and become like little children,

you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position

of this child

is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 

‘You won’t even get into heaven,’

Jesus was telling them,

‘unless you learn this lesson.’

 

unless you change

and become like little children,

you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

 

It was important that they learn this lesson.

 

Very important!

They had to learn this lesson,

before they could get into heaven.

 

But did they?

 

After relating this incident in his 9th Chapter,

the Gospel writer Mark goes on to tell

how Jesus took them to other cities and towns, preaching,

and then in Mark Chapter 10,

another incident occurs.

 

Beginning at Mark 10:35, we read,

 

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee,

came to him.

“Teacher,” they said,

“we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

 

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

 

37 They replied,

 

“Let one of us sit at your right

and the other at your left in your glory.”

 

There it is again!

 

They wanted to be the greatest among the apostles.

 

They still hadn’t learned the lesson.

 

They wanted for themselves,

those most important positions at Jesus’ right and left.

 

Jesus patiently explained to them again, a few verses later, that

 

... whoever wants to become great among you

must be your servant,

44 and whoever wants to be first

must be slave of all.

 

45 For even the Son of Man

did not come to be served,

but to serve,

and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

Jesus didn’t preach to them

the same exact sermon, over again,

but he used different words

to teach them the same lesson—

the lesson that they failed to practice

after hearing it the first time.

 

He pointed to his own example

in serving them

and in laying down his life for them

by going to the cross for them.

 

He was sacrificing his own interests for theirs,

and that’s what they had to learn to do

by serving the interests of one another.

-------------------------------------------------------

 

Surely, they must have got the point this time,

after Jesus explained it all to them again!

 

But, no, they didn’t get it yet.

 

That’s why we read, as we do, in Luke Chapter 22,

that Jesus had to repeat

the same lesson to them again

at the Last Supper.

 

At this point—Jesus’ last night on earth as a man—

they had been with him,

listening to his instruction for more than three years.

 

But, Luke 22:24 tells us

that right there at the dinner table at that Last Supper,

 

24 A dispute also arose among them

as to which of them was considered to be greatest.

 

They still had the wrong attitude.

 

They still hadn’t learned that important lesson.

 

24 A dispute also arose among them

as to which of them was considered to be greatest.

 

25 Jesus said to them,

 

“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them;

and those who exercise authority over them

call themselves Benefactors.

 

26 But you are not to be like that.

 

Instead, the greatest among you

should be like the youngest,

and the one who rules like the one who serves.

 

27 For who is greater,

the one who is at the table

or the one who serves?

 

Is it not the one who is at the table?

 

But I am among you as one who serves.

 

This time, it seems they finally got it.

 

They should have!

 

It was at least the third time Jesus had to teach them

this same lesson.

 

They must have got it this time,

because the Lord went on to say to them, in Verse 28,

 

28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials.

 

29 And I confer on you a kingdom,

just as my Father conferred one on me,

30 so that you may eat and drink

at my table in my kingdom

and sit on thrones,

judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

 

We can be glad that Christ is patient with us, too.

 

Like those early disciples,

we, too, are slow learners.

It’s not just this lesson about servant leadership,

but the many other lessons

that each of us needs to learn

to be fit for service above

in Christ’s heavenly kingdom.

 

He patiently teaches us,

molds us, and re-shapes us

to become more like him.

 

There are many areas of our lives

where Jesus needs to keep teaching us

the same lesson over and over again.

 

The particular lesson may vary from one to another,

since we all have different weaknesses. 

 

But most of us are slow learners.

 

More than the 3-1/2 years Jesus spent teaching the Apostles,

we often need a lifetime

to learn some important lessons.

 

And we need that patient, repeated correction

that our Lord provides

through the Scriptures

and through his hand in our lives.

 

He gave us new birth

and adopted us as his children

when we turned to Jesus as our Lord and Savior

and he’s committed

to keep working on us.

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But it can be a different story

when whole nations

turn away from the Lord.

 

Jeremiah in the Old Testament

tells us how God kept sending prophets

to ancient Jerusalem

to rebuke their pagan idolatry.

 

In Jeremiah 7:25, God said

 

25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt

until now, day after day, again and again

I sent you my servants the prophets.

26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention.

 

And then in Jeremiah Chapter 44,

God explains

that was why he let enemies destroy the city.

 

Beginning at Jeremiah 44:2, we read,

 

 2 “This is what the Lord Almighty,

the God of Israel, says:

 

You saw the great disaster

I brought on Jerusalem

and on all the towns of Judah.

 

Today they lie deserted and in ruins

3 because of the evil they have done.

 

They aroused my anger

by burning incense to and worshiping other gods

that neither they nor you

nor your ancestors ever knew.

 

4 Again and again

I sent my servants the prophets, who said,

 

Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!’

 

5 But they did not listen or pay attention;

 

they did not turn from their wickedness

or stop burning incense to other gods.

 

6 Therefore, my fierce anger was poured out;

 

it raged against the towns of Judah

and the streets of Jerusalem

and made them the desolate ruins they are today.

 

God’s patience with Judah and Jerusalem ran out.

 

He sent one prophet after another,

preaching the same lesson:

not to worship other gods.

 

But the people of Judah and Jerusalem never learned the lesson.

 

They still worshiped God at his Temple,

but they also burned incense to other gods.

 

And that’s something God doesn’t tolerate.

 

This should serve as a warning to our nation today.

 

Our nation was settled and founded

by Bible-believing Christians,

and their faith in Christ helped mold

the nation’s laws and customs.

 

And we’ve been blessed

above all the nations of the earth.

 

But today the teachings of the Bible

are widely ridiculed and spoken against.

 

The popular culture no longer believes that God created us,

and no longer believes that

the Bible’s teachings on right & wrong apply to us.

 

But people aren’t leaving a vacuum

when they abandon Jesus and the Bible.

 

They’re substituting the worship of pagan gods, instead.

 

Despite this nation’s Christian heritage,

people today are placing statues of the false god Buddha

in their gardens.

 

People are putting their hope in the false god of good luck,

as they invest their earnings in gambling.

Americans are turning to the demonic spirits

associated with Palm Reading, fortune telling, Tarot cards,

horoscopes, zodiac signs and astrology.

 

People are seeking peace and emotional healing

through Hindu/Buddhist meditation and yoga classes.

 

Many recite ‘mantras’ calling upon Hindu gods and goddesses

at their meditation and exercise classes.

 

The true God has shown in the past

what he does when a nation rejects his Word

and turns instead to idolatry and pagan worship.

 

So, in our evening service at 6 p.m. tonight

we’ll be talking about how those things

are invading our culture

and even creeping into the lives of Christians.

 

Please plan to attend, and to invite others.