WELCOME A LITTLE CHILD IN JESUS’ NAME
Mark 9:30-50 Key Verse: 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.”
Through last Sunday’s passage, we learn how to overcome unbelief. One father brought a son who was possessed by a deaf and mute demon. The disciples could not heal the boy but argued with the teachers of the law. Jesus lamented, saying, “Oh, unbelieving generation!” Jesus saw it as a generation problem of unbelief. Jesus helped the father to keep his faith to the end, overcoming unbelief. We are also living in an unbelieving generation. God wants us to have faith in him to the end, overcoming personal doubt due to people or hard situations and/or trials in life. God wants us to help one person to have faith in him by sharing the words of God and depending on God through prayer. In this way we can overcome our own unbelief and unbelieving generation; thus, render glory to God. Amen!
In this week, I have repented of my sins of unbelief deeper and mistakes I have made. I realized that often I did not believe in Jesus’ power and tried in my own power. Instead of following the way of Christ, I trusted in my own way. I had faith in favorable circumstances, and it seemed working great at the beginning but no work of God in the end. Only when I despaired in my ability or due to impossible situation, I came to God with earnest heart in prayer, trusting him to the end. Then God shows himself, mysteriously working. May God continue to help me to depend on Jesus through prayer and experience the power of Jesus. Amen!
In today’s passage, Jesus is teaching the disciples his death through betrayal and resurrection. But the disciples neither understood nor asked a question about it; rather they were arguing with the topic, “Who is the greatest?” Jesus did not rebuke them but taught them how to be great in the sight of God. Then, John bragged that he stopped one man who was driving out demons in the name of Jesus because he was not one of them. Jesus told him not to do so because they were not enemies but coworkers in Christ. The disciples truly did not know what they were doing. Due to their self-centeredness, they became stumbling block to others and to God’s work. Jesus warned them not to be a stumbling block for the little ones who believes in him but grow in the love of Christ and build the unity in him. May God grant us one word of God through this passage. Amen.
Look at verse 30-31, “They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” Jesus and the disciples left the foot of the mountain, passing through Galilee, and heading toward Jerusalem. Jesus knew what was coming and what was needed before his crucifixion. Jesus wanted to concentrate on teaching the disciples because his time was coming soon. He had to teach something very urgent and important. It was his suffering, death and resurrection. Last time when he taught this to the disciples, Peter was very defiant, even rebuking Jesus. Jesus rebuked him back, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” At this moment, Jesus revealed a little more in his suffering. He was going to be betrayed. Jesus knew who the betrayer was. It was one of his 12 disciples, Judas Iscariot. Yet, Jesus still loved him. Jesus talked about the betrayal so as to help him to repent. Though he did not repent his sins, Jesus washed his dirty feet, and finally died on the cross for the sin of all human beings including his. Thank you Jesus for your love for sinners, even Judas Iscariot.
Jesus talked about his suffer, death and resurrection again in order to prepare the disciples’ heart. They need to understand that his suffering and death is not an accident but God’s sovereign will for world salvation. After the death, he will rise again on the third day in order to break the power of death, the head of Satan, and give us the hope of eternal life with him.
But what was the response of the disciples? Look at verse 32, “But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.” But they had no ears to hear. They did not understand why the Messiah had to die. It did not make any sense. The Messiah supposed to restore the kingdom of David on earth, freeing the people of Israel from the bondage of Rome just as Moses freed the people of Israel from the King of Egypt. Their hearts were closed due to fear. They used to ask questions when they could not understand, but they lost their learning mind when they were fearful. Fear made them frozen, living in spiritual Ice Age and making spiritual digress. This is what happened to Abraham in Genesis 12. When God called him to go to the Promised Land, by faith he obeyed and went even though there was no piece of land or people welcoming with placard. But when there was a famine in the land, he fell into fear and went to Egypt, leaving the Promised Land without asking God about it. Due to fear he lied that his wife was his sister and almost lost her because the king of Egypt took her to be his wife. Though God restored everything, Abraham broke the heart of his wife and was rebuked by the king of Egypt. Here we learn that when people act base on fear, they make a wrong decision, lie, close-minded and spiritually digress. Then why both the disciples and Abraham became fearful?
It is self-centeredness. Look at verse 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.” When Jesus was talking about his upcoming suffering, death and resurrection, the disciples were thinking about themselves. They wanted to clarify what position they would get in the earthly messianic kingdom they believed that Jesus would establish. They were arguing against each other with the topic, “Who is the greatest?” Maybe three disciples, who went up to the Transfiguration Mountain with Jesus, scorned the other nine who could not drive out the demon from the boy. The nine disciples began to point out the formal job of three disciples; they were fishermen with their low level of education. Peter tried to shut them down that the formal education meant nothing, bragging that he got all the answers correct thus far. James and John pointed out that they were an extra support from their mom who was making substantial contribution to Jesus’ ministry. When people seek their own interest and glory, they become self-centered. When people become self-centered, they begin to argue. This kind of conflict happens everywhere, among politicians, among workers, and even among immature disciples in a church. Therefore, do not be surprised or dismayed when you see such an event in a church. It does not mean that we should be comfortable with the problem but understand and seek the way of resolution. Let’s learn from Jesus what the solution is. How did Jesus help the disciples?
Look at verse 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.” Jesus did not rebuke them, but taught them how to be great not in the sight of worldly people but in the sight of God. The world teaches to be great by being a number one, top dog, ruling over others. The disciples hated the Roman emperor, Cesar who commanded a census to be taken in the entire world, but at the same time they loved his power and authority. A sinful human being is power hungry. When they have it, they want to use it to a maximum degree. In the movie, the Lord of the Ring, everyone, even the most pure human Proto, is tempted to have the absolute power, which is what the devil wanted.
Why does a human being have desire to be great? It is because we are made in the image of God, who is great. But the greatness in God is different from that of the world. In the sight of God, a very last, a servant of all, serving others makes a person truly great. A person with authority may make people to do whatever they want because they hold power. Yet they cannot move peoples’ hearts unless they serve them. These days, servant leadership is getting popular. When a leader serves, the hearts of the people are moved and the organization become very efficient and effective. Even the son of God did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a random for many.
Jesus gave a practical example for the disciples. Look at verse 36-37, “He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 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.” A little child is very cute and adorable to look. But the behind the cute face, the baby’s mom and dad have to take care of the baby through day and night. The baby cry whenever hungry or peed or pooped or even feel uncomfortable and sick, especially in the middle of night. Even though the baby is taken care of, there is no reply, saying, “Thanks mom or dad, great job! I really appreciate that you changed my dippers.” What is worse, there are people who are adult but acting like a baby. So we call them childish. They may be a demanding person without return. They are noisy, very dependent, need service all the time, and doing whatever they feel like doing.
Most people do not welcome them; rather turn their faces away from them. It may be almost impossible to welcome such a person with our own strength and from our hearts. Our human strength and love is very limited. That is the reason why Jesus said, “Welcome one of these children in my name.” In the name of Jesus we can welcome them. In the love of Jesus, we can serve them. When we remember the love of Jesus and how we were served, we can overcome our limitations and welcome such a person. It is our expression of love to Jesus. In John 21, Jesus asked Peter over and over, “Do you love me,” until he was hurt. Every time Peter answered, “You know that I love you,” Then Jesus said, “Feed my lambs, take care my sheep, and feed my sheep.” Finally, it was planted in Peter’s heart and life, so he also encouraged other Christians in his letter, 1 Peter 5:2, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve.” As a shepherd of God’s flock, a disciples must over his self-centeredness and become altruistic, concerning others’ needs. When the Apostle Paul remembered the grace of Jesus, he could embrace anyone so as to win their hearts over to Jesus. He could be everyone to everyone; to a Jew, he was a Jew. To Romans, he was a Roman in order to win their hearts over to God. May God help me to serve each one of our members with the love of Christ. May God help each one of us to serve God’s flock under our care!
Did the disciples take this precious Jesus’ teaching? Look at verse 38, “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” John didn’t accept the word of Jesus at all. He was full of himself. He met a person who was driving out demons in the name of Jesus, but was NOT one of the distinguished group of disciples who were following Jesus closely. “No way, he should not have the power of Jesus’ name,” John thought that he was privileged to follow Jesus. Truly it was by the grace of Jesus, but he used the privilege as an authority to stop the man who had faith in Jesus and were doing the work of God. John, the disciple, became a stumbling block to him and the work of God. Why? Again, it is from self-centeredness; I, my, me and my cool group. A disciple of Jesus must overcome this kind of mentality. How?
Look at verse 40, “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us.” John should repented his self-centered way of think and become God-centered. In God’s perspective, a man who does miracles in the name of Jesus is not an enemy but a precious coworker. John should accept others who are in Jesus and serving others in the name of Jesus Christ.
In the same way, however, when a disciples is not God-centered, he will be self-centered and narrow-minded, arguing with other disciples and became a stumbling block to God’s work. Jesus wants to open our hearts and become God-centered. He wants us to be untied with other disciples in him and serve the work of God together. Before being arrested, this was how Jesus prayed, saying, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Jesus’ prayer was not only for the 12 disciples but for all future disciples. Jesus prayed for them to be completely united. God centered person will be united with other believers instead of dividing. When we overcome ourselves and unite in Christ, there is a great work of God; people of the world will recognize that there is the love of God among us and accept Jesus as his savior. May God bless each one of our members to be united in Christ so that people can see the love of God among us. In this way, God may raise 12 disciples of Jesus who can take care of God’s flock with unity in Jesus. Amen!
Moreover, Jesus gave a promise for those who serve in verse 41, saying, “Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” The disciples of Jesus are very precious to God. Therefore, if anyone serve the disciples a cup of water in the name of Jesus, God will reward him or her. Likewise, when we serve God’s flock in Jesus’ name, we will certainly not lose our reward either. When we are united with others disciples in the name of Jesus, we have His great reward in heaven.
As Jesus promised his reward for unity and serving in his name, so there is a punishment. When people do not repent and keep on living self-centered life, they become a stumbling block to others. Look at verse 42, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” Jesus is very much concerned for the little ones who just believe in Jesus. It is because they are very vulnerable and weak. Jesus warned the disciples not to be a stumbling block through their self-centered way of thinking and care-free life. Here is an example in 1 Corinthians 8. In Corinth, there were many temples worshiping all kinds of idols. In the market place, the food sacrificed to the idols were sold. Of course, eating the food was not going to make you turn to be an idol worshiper. Some of new brothers; however, believed that those, who buy and eat the meat sacrificed to an idol, were defiled. So the Apostle Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up…. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak…. So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” May God help us not to use our freedom even for ourselves but build others with the love of Christ. May God help us to eat and drink or whatever we do, do it all for the glory of God.
Verses 43-48 says, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.  [ HYPERLINK “https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+9&version=NIV” \l “fen-NIV-24583b” \o “See footnote b” b] 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.  47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” Jesus said these things in order to encourage the disciples to cut the parts of life or habit causes weak brothers to stumble even if it is as painful as much cutting a part of a body. Otherwise, he or she is going to taste the hellish life. The consequence of not cutting of sinful way of life is turning paradise of God into hell where there is no God but fire, arguing and fighting. We cannot take the life of sin lightly. If we do not cut them out of our lives, certainly there will be God’s punishment sooner or later.
Here are two examples who could cut their old sinful way of life. One young man just accepted Jesus. When he was walking on a street, his girlfriend, who used to commit immoral sin with him, greeted him. He did not greet her back; however, ran away from her and never met her again. There was one sincere young student who wanted to get rid of Japanese pornographic manga CDs, which were stumbling block for him to grow in Christ and bad influence to others. But he could not do it by himself and called his Bible teacher to help him. The Bible teacher went to his house and helped him to burn them.
Everyone will be tested through fire. Through trials of life, we will be tested whether we are self-centeredness or God-centered. There can be two reactions; one will repent and become God-centered person or stubbornly live in self-centered life and experience hellish life. True disciples of Jesus will repent their self-centered heart and self-glory seeking life. They become a salty Christian through trials of life. If a disciple of Jesus do not have the love of God and keep on living self-centered life, how can we call the person a Christian? May God help each one of us to be a salty Christian by living God-center life and serving each other with the love of God.
Through today’s passage, we learned that Jesus wanted his disciples to accept his suffering, death and resurrection. The disciples could not understand because they were self-centered and seeking their worldly glory. When they were self-centered, they were constantly arguing among themselves and became a stumbling block for God’s work instead of coworking. Jesus taught them true greatness in the sight of God by serving a little child in Jesus’ name and being God-centered. When we become God-centered, we can overcome our limitations and be united with other coworker for the kingdom of God. May God bless us to unite in Christ in serving God’s flock under our care for the glory of God so that people may see the love of God among us. Amen!