Love People, Find Hope
Note: This is a transcript of the sermon preached at the online Chapel service at St. Paul’s Theological College (SPTC) Malaysia on September 16, 2021.
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)
I’m going to begin with a bit of a context of what happened in this passage. Jesus and His disciples were in another place, where Jesus drove an unclean spirit out of a young boy. After that, they left the place and passed through Galilee and verse 32, Jesus proclaimed of his impending death and resurrection which left the disciples dumbfounded although this is the second time that they heard Jesus mentioning these things. The first time that Jesus mentioned about these things was in Mark 8:31, right after Peter professed Jesus as the Messiah. Not only they were dumfounded, they were even afraid to ask him.
In the same way for us, after being in the church, after being a Christian for quite some time, after hearing the Gospel being testified and witnessed to us by any given means, some of us may find ourselves dumbfounded like the disciples. In this world that seem oblivious from truth and meaning, it’s easy to be swayed away from them but we who are under the covenant of Christ are privileged to hold the very truth that Jesus, in His work of death and resurrection, is the answer to our freedom from death. Therefore, we should take ownership of this truth and expand our own capacity to show the glory of Christ to every people. However, our privilege doesn’t guarantee a place of greatness. In fact, it’s the opposite.
In verses 33-35, as the disciples argued amongst each other on who is the greatest of them all, Jesus said that that those who want to be great has to be the least of the people. In fact, to be great is to be a servant; to serve rather than being served. Jesus may sound like a bad leadership coach because he tells you the opposite of things that shapes a great person but the reality is, the greater you are, the more you sacrifice. Leadership isn’t about being great but it’s about giving away for the sake of a cause. To be great requires us to break our ego, pride and prejudices but in that midst, we find the very purpose that God places in us, which is to reveal the glory of Christ by loving people regardless of who they are. Then, Jesus called a child to him and he made the child facing the disciples. He then said, “whoever receives a child receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me”. Jesus is showing us that by showing hospitality to anyone, we bring a person closer to Him and then, to the Father.
Folks, being a theologian, a pastor or a Christian leader isn’t about earning a doctorate in theology, storing more theological books, scoring better grades in our essays and dissertation, or even having an honorific on our names. In fact, it’s the opposite. The apostles didn’t drive a Bentley or fly a jet plane. In fact, some were shipwrecked, some were arrested many times and some died tragically for the sake of having people encountering Jesus. Jesus himself, in fact, suffered and died for us to know Him and to know the Father. But we can rejoice in His resurrection because it shows us hope in the life to come where there will be no tears, sorrow nor anguish. There is only hope in the world to come and people need to know this because this speaks truth!
Take a look around the Zoom tiles and some of us may be squeezing our brain juices to complete our essays and dissertation, sacrificing our leisure times while juggling work and family. Some of us here may be going through some tough and terrible season. Some of us here may try to make sense of God and the Gospel that we hear every week. I run a Christian podcast and few weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting other Christian podcasters and one thing we found out is that we’re called to start our own podcasts at almost the same time and as we prayed and reflected together, we realized that none of us are influential people but God called us at the same time in the pandemic season to help people to understand that the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ is the hope for the people. We were so faithful to our call that God brought in followers from every parts of the world! Personally, when I first started my podcast, I had nothing but an old Macbook and a conventional earphone but as of today, many lives are impacted with the Gospel!
If there’s one thing you can take from here, is this: Seize every opportunity to speak hope to people. Make initiatives to reach out to people. Help people to understand that the only hope is in Jesus because of what He has done. Our capacity now is the place that God wants to use us. We don’t need to be a bishop, nor having a doctorate to start a ministry but God wants to reveal His hope to you and to the world. What are you going to do? What are opportunities around you? Who are the people that God has given to you? Take this time to reflect, pray and ponder upon what God wants to do through you in this season.
Father God, we want to echo the prayer that was taught by Jesus to the multitudes of people: Let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done on earth as in heaven. You desire to show hope to the world and You want to use us mightily for Your glory. You’ve placed us in a position and You’ve placed us people in our lives that not only we’re blessed but we’ll be a blessing to them. Holy Spirit, come and enable us to be instruments of Your glory and may we become catalysts to Your wonderful and holy plans that You’ve set before the foundations of the world. Shine Your glory unto us, O God, and let our souls rest in You. Grant us joy, peace, wisdom and relentless zeal to be faithful to the tasks that You’ve given to us for this world to know Your hope. Jesus, remind us of what You have done in Your death and resurrection for us to know hope. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen!