30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 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.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 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.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
From our Epistle Text, Jam. 4:1-6, 1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Jesus shows how jealously God yearns over you. Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. Jesus will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. Like Jeremiah in our Old Testament text (Jer. 11:18-20), Jesus knew the deeds of the scheming, wicked men, and Jesus knew that God judges righteously. Like Jeremiah, Jesus committed His cause to Yahweh. Jesus not only saw God’s vengeance upon the wicked, Jesus experienced it. Jesus stepped between God’s wrath and the wicked. Jesus took on their sins and received God’s wrath, vengeance, and punishment for their transgressions. He suffered, bled, and died. And three days later, He rose again. The crucifixion shows that Jesus opposes your proud, sinful ways. The resurrection reveals that God does indeed give grace to the humble.
Your sin, no matter how big or how little, separates you from God. Your sin earns you God’s wrath and hell. Of course you can choose to hold onto that sin. You can persist in unrepentance and unbelief. But by doing so, you refuse the free gift of Jesus’ forgiveness and righteousness.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus has taken all your sin, all your death, and all your damnation. Jesus bore all of it in His body on the cross. Your sin no longer belongs to you – Jesus took it and answered for it. Your sin does not condemn you – Jesus atoned for it. Believer, because of Jesus, your sin cannot harm you.
Because of Jesus your sin is forgiven and gone. Because of Jesus, you are no longer in your sins. Eternal life and peace with God is yours. Jesus’ Good Friday dying and His Easter rising make you right with God.
Jesus has done all of this for you. And yet, like the disciples, we argue and fight. We jockey for position and go behind each other’s backs in order to become great and powerful. Are you kidding me?
Here is Jesus, indisputably the greatest and first of all. He has come to serve the least, the last, the lowest, the lost, the little, and the dead by shedding His holy and precious blood on the cross. You have Jesus for you. Who cares who’s the greatest?
If you want to be great, live in the freedom of the Gospel which releases you from your fighting, from your quarreling, from your sin. Because of the freedom God has given you in the Gospel, you do not have to do anything to make yourself right with God. Jesus has already made you right with God. So in that freedom, live not for yourself but for others. Care for the little ones, the most needy, the least in the world. Care for those who need help. Jesus says, “Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me. If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Brothers and sisters, you have been made right with God. You have been washed clean in your baptism. You have been declared to be forgiven, just, and holy in the absolution. You are fed Jesus’ righteousness in the Lord’s Supper – a foretaste of the eternal banquet that awaits you. Go. Serve. Slavishly serve those God places into your life and who need that service.
Such a life of service doesn’t fight, doesn’t quarrel, and doesn’t keep score because it doesn’t need to because Jesus has become last for you. Because Jesus has redeemed you. Because Jesus has saved and restored you.
You need not fret about being great because God has already given you a new heart, a new desire, and a new delight – He has given you Himself. And when you have Jesus, you have all the desires of your new heart. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.