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Sermon on Mark 9 : 30 - 37 马可福音第9章 第30节至37节

Sermon passage: (Mark 9:30-37) Spoken on: February 23, 2020
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Dr. Tan Hock Seng
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Mark

Tags: Mark 马可福音

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About Dr. Tan Hock Seng: Dr. Tan teaches New Testament studies, theology and languages in various seminaries in Singapore.

In Mark’s Gospel three times Jesus told his disciples concerning what the Messiah would go through (8:31; 9:31; 10:33–34) [1] The Son of Man must suffer, [2] be killed, and [3] after three days be resurrected. This teaching is traditionally dubbed “The Passion Predictions”

We do not find the “Passion Prediction” in Luke’s Gospel, but only general declaration about the Messiah’s suffering. In Luke 24:26 we read, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” On the way to the village Emmaus, Jesus reminded the disciples about His necessary suffering before He enters into the glory of His kingdom.

On each of the three occasions of the “Passion Predictions” Mark contrast Jesus’ sentiment of the Kingdom of God with that of the disciples’: Jesus was concerned with His suffering and death in His mission for the Kingdom; the disciples were preoccupied with their status and glory when the Kingdom comes.

The Disciples’ Response to Jesus’ “Passion Prediction”

Passion Predictions by Jesus Disciples’ Self-Centered Responses
Jesus’ first teaching about the Messiah’s suffering & death [8:31] Peter rebuked Jesus because he assumed that Messianic roles entail only privileges, and no suffering [8:32]
Jesus’ second teaching about the Messiah’s suffering & death [9:31-32] Disciples argued about who would be first [9:33-34]
Jesus’ third teaching about the Messiah’s suffering & death [10:33-34] James and John requested to sit with Jesus in glory (10:35-36)

In all three teachings about the Messiah’s suffering, Jesus speaks of the necessity of his rejection, suffering, and death [see Luke 24:26]; and each time the disciples responded by voicing their ambitions for status and prestige.

The first time when Jesus told His disciples about the Messiah’s suffering, Peter responded by rebuking Jesus (8:31). Peter assumed that Messianic role entails only privileges and no suffering.

In today’s passage Mark 9:30-37 when Jesus spoke of the Messiah’s suffering the second time, Mark shows the disciples’ desire for status-recognition.

When Jesus taught about the Messiah’s suffering and death the third time (10:33–34), James and John responded with a request to sit with the Messiah in Glory (10:35–45).

This summary in a caricature-maxim contrasts Jesus and the disciples: Jesus gave up His glory, in order to serve; and the disciples served, in order to gain glory.

The Disciples Did Not Understand Jesus’ Mission

32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it (Mark 9:32)

Jesus taught His disciples a second time that it is God’s will for the Son of Man [the Messiah] to suffer, die, and be raised. Once again, the disciples could not grasp: “They did not understand [what Jesus was talking about] and were afraid to ask him about it.” (8:33).

Q: Why were the disciples afraid to ask Jesus about the Messiah’s suffering?

Were they afraid that Jesus would rebuke them as He had scolded Peter earlier?
No, Jesus was not the kind of teacher who loses patience with slow learners.

On the contrary, the disciples were the kind of students who dared to rebuke their teacher. In Mark 8:32 we read that Peter took Jesus aside and ‘began to rebuke him’ for talking about suffering and dying. Peter told Jesus, “Choy! choy! choy! You better don’t anyhow say, “Die, die, die” “ ‘No Time to Die,’ Jesus.”

To the westerners, “Peter’s rebuke of Jesus” is “free speech” so all the English versions have no qualm in retaining the Greek’s literal meaning, “Peter began to rebuke Jesus” To the Chinese, a student rebuking his teacher is unthinkable, thus we read a mellow translation in the Chinese Union Version, “彼得就拉着他,劝他”. The disciples didn’t want Jesus to ruin their messianic dream, so they were afraid to ask Jesus. The truth might turn their “VR” fantasy into a nightmare.

Q: What was the disciples’ messianic dream?
A: The disciples thought that the kingdom of God was imminent [just around the corner]. Jesus was about to become king soon. God would make Jesus King when they enter Jerusalem. This expectation of glory is far from the notion of the Messiah will suffer and dies.

Q: What makes them think that Jesus would become king very soon?

[Jesus Could Do Great Miracles]
1. Jesus could perform great miracles
If the Roman army were to lay a siege on Jerusalem to curb Jewish rebellion, Jesus could solve all problems: When the food-supply is running low, Jesus could multiply the bread and the fish. If any fighter got wounded, Jesus could cause the blind to see and the lame to walk again. Anyone who bleeds profusely could just touch Jesus’ garment and the bleeding would stop. If anyone dies, Jesus could raise him back to life. Thus, with Jesus as King, the people could be liberated from a “one country, two systems” Palestine.

[Jesus Admitted that He is the Messiah]
2. Jesus had admitted to the Disciples that He is the Messiah (8:27-30).

At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah!” Jesus accepted Peter’s confession, and warned the disciples not to tell anyone. That was Jesus’ indirect admission of His Messiah identity.

[Moses and Elijah Appeared with Jesus]
3. Three disciples saw Moses and Elijah with the Transfigured Jesus (9:1-9).

Peter, James and John saw the historic Moses and the power-dynamic Elijah with Jesus at Mount Herman/Mt Tabor. When a cloud enshrouded the scene and the disciples heard God declaring, “This is my Son whom I love. Listen to Him” (9:7).

Then Jesus instructed Peter, James and John not to tell anyone. Well, let’s imagine Peter. He could not sleep so he mumbled to John: “John, you awake?” John: “What?” Peter “I’m thinking about … the secret?” John: “What?” Peter: Moses and Elijah with Jesus today, lah.” John: “You talk too much … Go back to sleep” Then the other disciples said: “Goodnight, Pete. O, don’t worry, we did not hear anything.” (Snickering)

Nobody in Jesus’ time had ever seen Moses or Elijah before. The two great prophets’ appearance with Jesus was phenomenal, as if to signal the disciples something spectacular was going to happen soon.

The disciples were expecting Jesus’ coronation. They continued to daydream about the glory of the Kingdom when Jesus spoke of the Messiah’s suffering. They competed to be the first.

The disciples were apparently selective of Jesus’ teaching. They chose to listen what enjoyed but rejected the contents that is ominous to them.

Q: What about us when we read the Bible? Do we merely focus on the riches and glory of the Kingdom and ignore the teachings about the cost of following Jesus in Christian living?

There is a hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross” [composed by George Bennard in 1912]
The first line goes, “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross. The emblem of suff’ring and shame … The last line says, “I will cling to the old rugged cross. And exchange it someday for a crown”

Christianity is not all about crowns. Christian living is pilgrimage that embraces both “suffering and crown” as we live out the will of God. All of us who follow Jesus as LORD have to face decision that put our Christian value to the test.

In 1995 Judge B. Kent of the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas stated in his ruling that any student mentioning the name of Jesus in a graduation prayer would be given a jail sentence:

And make no mistake, the court is going to have a United States Marshal in attendance at the graduation. If any student offends this court, that student will be summarily arrested and will face up to six months incarceration in the Galveston County jail of court. [Brannon House, “The People and the Agenda of Multicultural Education,” Understanding the Times, January 1997, 3].

Then in 2011 Chief District Judge Fred Biery handed down ruling that bans prayer at the graduation ceremony of the Medina Valley High School. The school to remove the terms “invocation” and “benediction” from the ceremony program and replaced with “opening remarks: and “closing remarks”. Students who are scheduled to speak may not ask the audience to “stand,” “join in prayer,” or “bow their heads,” and not to end their remarks with “amen” or in [a deity’s name] we pray. Students shall be incarcerated for contempt of Court if the injunction order is not obeyed. [Civil Action no. SA-11-CA-422-FB].

This incident did not happen in Russia but in the USA. The country’s official motto “In God We Trust” motto is evolving into “In Rights We Bow”.

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. The silence was deafening (Mark 9:33-34).

In the first Century Palestine, no ancient disciples would dare to walk ahead of their Rabbi, or even walk side by side with him. So, it is customary to see the rabbi walking first and his disciples straggling behind. As Jesus walked in front, the disciples were pushing and shoving one another, as they argued, trying to establish their respective position behind Jesus. The problem is, “Everybody wants to be the next in line after Jesus” The Disciples’ motto was “After Jesus, Second to None”.

Q: Why is the “First Position” Important to the Disciples?

The preoccupation of rank and standing were common in the Mediterranean world, particularly in Judaism.

[1] Rabbinic writings frequently comment on the seating order in Paradise, for example, “The just shall sit nearer to the throne of God than even the angels.”

[2] The Rule of the Community at Qumran prescribes the proper order of procession in entering the Sanctuary (the Rule): First Priests; second, the Levites; third, the People shall one after another, in thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. The order is fixed, and no one can move up or down his rank/position (1QS 2:19–23, Manual of Discipline).

[3] Psalm 68:24-25 also mentions briefly about some orders in the procession as God the King enters His Royal Sanctuary, “So that all the children of Israel may know their standing in God’s community” (Psalm 68:24-25).]

Influenced by the values of the first century Judaism, the disciples also competed to be the greatest. They wanted to be great so that others would serve them.

The Disciples’ Deafening Silence

They “kept silent” (9:34)

The disciples knew that Jesus would not approve of their “who is the greatest?” argument. When they realized that Jesus was aware of their senseless debate, they stopped arguing.

Application: It is very helpful for us to be conscious of God’s presence with us. When we are reminded that God is fully aware of what we say and what we do, we can stop ourselves from saying or doing many wrong things, especially things that will hurt people. It is good to cultivate the consciousness that God is present with us and among us.

Jesus’ Teaching about True Greatness

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

He sat down: It means that the teaching rabbi is about to begin his lesson.

The Lesson: Being Servant to All

"If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

In the Jewish culture of this period, the “first,” means the rulers, aristocrats, ruling priests, and other persons of authority and influence Thus, to be the “last,” and “servant,” was to be someone with no rank, no authority, no privilege—a status that people normally did not covet.

Jesus taught a paradox – In the Kingdom you become first by becoming the last, that is, the servant of all. The disciples’ overly self-focused value system will be reversed.

For the ambition to rule, he substituted the ambition to serve.
For the ambition to have things done for us, he substituted the ambition to do things for others.

Thus, to be first in the kingdom of God one must seek to serve.


“How can I use my people to further my own personal ambitions?” but,
“How can I use my personal gifts and talents to serve the people?”

The Object-Lesson for Being Servant to All

36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. And said “Whoever welcomes [embraces] one of these little children [as I do] in my name welcomes [far more than] me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37)

Jesus illustrated His teaching with a child with an object-lesson. In Judaism, children had no power, no status, and few rights. They were socially invisible and easily ignored. To the poor, children could be a heavy burden in the family. They were usually exploited or abused. They were treated as expendable items. In Calcutta, children were made to beg, in order to bring food home to the family.

What the “welcome-one-of-these-little-children” teaching is not about:

1) Jesus is not promoting the Children Ministry in this very teaching. The child epitomizes people who are insignificant (and socially non-visible).

Jesus wanted His disciples to embrace people who are lowly, weak and are often neglected people, such as the child, in their aspiration to be leaders.

2) Disciples are not expected to behave like children, but to be like Jesus who embraces them.

Jesus was demonstrating the concept of embracing people who are lowly esteemed

The Apostle Paul expressed Jesus’ teaching this way: God chose the lowly things of this world – the things that are despised – the things that are not to shame the things that are.

Moreover, the Paul Apostle clarified and elaborated Jesus’ “The first shall be the last” teaching.

Listen to what Paul says about being “the Last” in Philippians 2:3-9:

Philippians 2:3-9
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Paul was not telling the Christians that they should not look into their own interests. He was exhorting them that as they cherish their own interests, they should also respect others’ interests also.

That is what it means to be the “last”.

Q: How low shall I stoop in my servanthood?
A: Paul says, “Follow the attitude of Jesus”

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped …

Paul reflected on Jesus’ humbling himself in His Incarnation until His death on the cross (Phil 2:3–9).

1. His Birth Place
The Son of God was not born in the first class maternity ward, but in a lowly and filthy manger.

2. His Education
He did not get to go Athen for education [the Harvard University of the first century] but he learned the Torah in the village Synagogue [neighborhood school of His days] while working as a Carpenter.

3. His Residence
He did not grow up in Buckingham Palace but in Nazareth, a gutter that people mocked, “What good thing can come out of Nazareth.” (John 1:46)

7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!

4. His Life-Example
Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.

The Gospel of John presents Jesus washing His disciples’ feet on the evening when they had their last supper together.

John 13:4-5
so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

That was an unforgettable moments in the disciples’ live; then Jesus told them,

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 15:15)

5. His Burial Site
He was not given an imperial burial, but had to use someone else’s tomb.

Then Paul says in verse 9:

6. His Vindication by God
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

Jesus Humbled Himself; God Exalted Him
That is why Peter and James could exhort the churches:

1 Peter 5:6
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

James 4:10
Humble yourselves before the Lord (Jesus), and he will lift you up.

The NT writers’ exhortation to be humble is based on Jesus’ teaching:

“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all”

Jeong In-soo’s Testimony

Jeong In-soo graduated from the National Konju Teachers’ College in 1973. While his fellow-teachers were assigned to the top-ranking schools in Seoul, the Ministry of Education posted Jeong In-soo to Gwangyang-Dapp Middle School. The school was located in the southern part of the Korean Penisular, far away from the capital city, Seoul.

The attractive part of the Gwanyang-Dapp Middle school is that the place is very scenic – the building is situated by the river Seongjin, between two mountains. The down side is that the school had no electricity. They were only 219 students with just 11 teachers The academic standard of the school was among the lowest ranking in Korea. Jeong In-soo was to teach maths for all the grades there. The principal asked Jeong, “Do you know Music?” Jeong answered, “I only sing in my church.” The Principal said, “Good enough, you shall also be the music teacher.” So, In-Soo also became the music teacher, just because he was exposed to church music.

One day Jeong In-soo asked the students “Who has a Bible?” Only two students raised their hands. So Jeong contacted the Gideon International to ask for free Bible. He distributed the Bibles to the every student and teachers there.

When the classes ended at 4.00pm, Jeong would try to share the Gospel with the students. Some students believed in Jesus, and they joined Jeong’s Bible class after school. Jeong brought the young believers to a small Presbyterian church near the school. Many months passed, the parents noticed significant changes in their children’s life – they started to take interest in their studies; and they became less rebellious, and more helpful at home. So the parents wanted to hear the Gospel also. Of course, Jeong was too happy to share Jesus with them.

At the end of the year, the Korea MOE noted the academic progress of Gwangyang school, and many students excelled in Maths. Then the MOE decided to reassign Jeong to teach in Seoul.

After one year of teaching at Gwangyang Dapp, Jeong In-soo was sad to leave the school, On the other hand, Jeong was very happy that 143 of the 219 students were attending the three churches in Gwangyang.

There was a 13 year-old Presbyterian church with only 17 members, The membership of that church increased to 50 within a year when some students and their parents joined the church.

In 1974 there was Explo 74, a nationwide Christian revival meeting in Seoul. Over 1.1 Million Christians attended. Jeong led 630 people – students, parents and church members –from Gwangyand to attend a National Revival Meeting at Seoul known as Explo 74.

After fulfilling his bond with the MOE, Jeong In-soo joined the Korean Campus Crusade Ministry. In 2002 He was posted to Singapore to be the director of the East Asia Region of Campus Crusade. He became my boss.

Then one of the former students located Jeong in Singapore. He arranged for Jeong to meet the others when he returned to Korea for furlough in 2004.

After 38 years of leaving Gwanag Dapp, Jeong In-soo was reunited with 17 of his primary school students at Busan. They were already in their 60s.

What inspire me in this testimony is that Jeong In-soo gave his best to teach the weak students, and loving lifted them up to be good learners. Most of all, he shared Jesus with the students and the parents. That is an example of being a servant to all and welcoming of one of such children in Jesus’ teaching.

Many times, we will have to make much adjustment when serving people who are different from us. Adjustment can be very difficult. I shall share with you about the kind of adjustment that Henri Nuewen had to make.

Henri Nouwen’s Testimony

Henri Nouwen switched from being a professor at Harvard University, where he had taught pastoral psychology, pastoral theology, and Christian spirituality for 20 years, to become an ordinary priest at L’Arche communities for mentally handicapped people. Henri was feeling spiritually dry and burned out. Then he felt God telling him, ““Go and live among the poor in spirit, and they will heal you.”

The transition was a very difficult time for Henri Nouwen. He shared about his struggle to adapt: “I moved from Harvard to L’Arche – from the best and the brightest, wanting to rule the world, to men and women who had few or no words and were considered, at best, marginal to the needs of our society.” “It was a very hard and painful move – “I’m not able to use any of the skills that had proved so practical in the past… I was suddenly faced with my naked self, open for affirmations and rejections, hugs and punches, smiles and tears… I was starting my life all over again. Relationships, connections, reputations could no longer be counted on.”

Many years later, when invited to speak about “Christian Leadership in the 21st Century” at Center for Human Development (Washington D.C.), Henri Nouwen shared,
“My movement from Harvard to L’Arche made me aware in a new way how much my own thinking about Christian leadership had been affected by the desire to be relevant, the desire for popularity, and the desire for power. Too often I looked at being relevant, popular, and powerful as ingredients of an effective ministry. The truth, however, is that these are not vocations but temptations.

We don’t have to venture far to look for the lowly and insignificant people to reach out to. There are people in your scope of contacts: your school, college, workplace, family circle, and even within the church who are lacking necessary attention. You can make a difference in their lives by reaching out to them.

1. Ask God to open our eyes to identify the people who are lacking care and attention.

Relative Circle

2. Seek God’s wisdom to reach out to them appropriately without causing them to feel awkward.

When we suddenly shower attention on people whom we don’t interact much with, they would feel comfortable, always wondering “What’s he up to, man?”

3. Pray for spiritual discernment to distinguish between needs and wants, so that you will not be taken advantage of. [I have often heard from people who had been abused of their kindness. Some says, “I don’t ever want to be engaged in Christian services again” The Master Teacher who exhorted His disciples to be “servants of all” also warned them to be as “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”.

"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves [Matthew 10:16]

4. Serve as a community, and not just as a “lone ranger”.

We can do much more when we minister as a team. We do not have all the spiritual gifts. We are only complete for service as a body of Christ.

5. Becoming “servant of every people” is a life-time learning process

These two simple teachings are very difficult to apply all the times.
Mark 9:35 “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Mark 9:37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

There are many types of people under the neglected people category. I confess that I do not know how to reach out to all the types. I am good at reaching out to certain types only; and there are still some people whom I feel very uncomfortable with, even to be near them. I have much to learn, and I learn from others. Being a servant to every people is a life-time learning process.


The teaching “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all” is a vague teaching. However, this teaching becomes very clear when we look at Jesus’ life and example. Jesus, Himself, became the very last and He was a servant to all.

Philippians 2:3-5
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: