November 1, 2010 David Balzer

Mark 9:14-10:31: Wanted: Kingdom Kids

Job applications. I know Mark’s on the look out for a new job. I bet he spent some time looking through Saturday’s Herald.

 

I’m not really hunting for a new job. But I went looking. Just to see what I might find. And I found some Job ads that might do the trick.

 

I like recreation. Mucking around. Playing games. Doesn’t everyone? So I found a vacancy for an EVENTS AND RECREATION SERVICES COORDINATOR at Centennial Park. I reckon I can organise a game of touch footy.

 

“Requirements: Must have Demonstrated extensive experience in event and leisure management, in developing and implementing viable sport/ recreation strategies and event plans (including research, planning, external agencies, evaluation techniques, and management of traffic sites, crowds, political, diplomatic and VIP protocols).

 

I stopped reading after that. I figure if I don’t even understand the ad, I probably can’t do the job.

 

Then I saw an ad with the Environmental Protection Agency. For a NOISE ASSESSMENTS manager. I figure, with four kids, that’s right up my alley.

 

So I read on. Requirements: “Knowledge and experience in assessing or managing environmental noise impacts, in reviewing or developing policies or practices related to environmental management.”

 

Oh well. Maybe not.

 

Then I found that Hurstville Council wanted an arborist. I figured, “That sounds fun. I can climb trees – I can do that!” So I kept reading.

 

“The successful applicant will operate an elevated working platform, and tree chipper, and hydraulic and petrol driven chainsaws, and will have a minimum two years experience. A class MR license is essential.”

 

Sounds a bit scary and dangerous. Maybe I’m not as well-qualified as I thought! I might just stick at what I’m doing!

 

Scary, dangerous, and under qualified. These are three words that probably popped into the DISCIPLES’ heads as they listened to THIS job application of Jesus.

 

Because one way of looking at these verses today/ is to see them as a JOB APPLICATION. Jesus is looking for applicants for the Kingdom of God.

 

Here’s a summary.

 

Wanted. Citizen of the Kingdom. Primary qualification is to be child-like. Kingdom Kids only need apply.

 

Must be willing to be the very last, not the first. The way to be honoured/ is to humbly allow OTHERS to receive honour.

 

Duties will include preventing people from sinning. ESPECIALLY the little ones. They’re the priority.

 

Kingdom kids will be expected to jettison pride, possessions, and pretensions. Family, home, and fields will also be expected to be abandoned.

 

Working week is 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. There is no provision for holidays or sick leave.

 

This is not a PAID position. Successful applicants must not think they can EARN/ ANYTHING. Kingdom kids must accept the gracious gifts of their Father without trying to earn them.

 

But Kingdom allowance and conditions are exceptional. And the superannuation and retirement plan for Kingdom Kids is out of this world.

 

A hundred times return on investments is guaranteed from home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields.

 

Are you willing to apply?

 

That’s the question that Jesus puts before the disciples. And because we’re looking over their shoulders/ it’s also the question that Jesus puts to us.

 

Are YOU willing to apply?

 

1. Kingdom kids depend on the Father in prayerful faith (9:14-32)

Let’s look at this job application together. The first section is verses 14-32 of chapter 9. Jesus and his three favourites – Peter, James and John – have been up on the mountain. The transfiguration. And God’s given them a glimpse into heaven. A glimpse of what the resurrected Jesus will be like. An amazing experience!

 

And now they all come down the mountain. And what do they find? Look at v14.

(Mark 9:14 NIV)  When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them.

 

The rest of the disciples couldn’t keep out of trouble. The teachers of the law have picked a fight. And there’s a large crowd around both groups. A bit like a playground brawl.

 

I used to hate that when I was a teacher and on playground duty. You’d walk around a corner, and there was a fight about to happen. Everyone ELSE knew what was going on, but I didn’t have a clue. I was playing catchup for the rest of lunch.

 

And Jesus asks the obvious question. Verse 16. “What are you lot arguing about?”

 

But rather than the disciples answering (v17), it’s a man from the crowd. Maybe the disciples are a bit embarrassed by the whole thing.

 

A spirit’s stopping this man’s son from speaking. A bit further on we also learn that he’s deaf as well. But it’s the symptoms like epilepsy that really trouble the father.

 

And so he brings the boy to the disciples. But the problem was/ when the disciples tried to cast out the demon/ nothing happened.

 

Now, it’s important to remember that only a few chapters before/ they actually HAD cast out demons and healed people. Jesus sent them out two by two. Back in Ch 6. But NOW when they tried it … NOTHING.

 

But Jesus knows exactly what’s gone wrong. Nothing happened because the disciples weren’t acting IN FAITH. Look at v19. He’s talking about his disciples.

(Mark 9:19 NIV)  “O UNBELIEVING generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?”

 

And he commands them to bring the boy to him.

 

But when they do, the spirit doesn’t like that idea, and it does the only thing it can – tries to harm the boy. Verse 20.

(Mark 9:20-22 NIV)  So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. {21} Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. {22} “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

 

There it is. That’s the invitation. “Take pity on us. And help us.”

 

But Jesus picks up on three EXTRA words. Words that show he’s got the same problem as the disciples. A lack of faith. Look at what Jesus answers. Verse 23.

(Mark 9:23 NIV)  “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

 

The man thought it all depended on JESUS – whether HE had the power to make it happen. But Jesus says “No, You’ve got it the wrong way around. It all depends on YOU. If YOU believe/ EVERYTHING is possible.”

 

And immediately the man responds with a great answer. One that sums up OUR situation so often. Verse 24. “I DO believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”

 

And isn’t that just like us? “God, I THINK I believe that you’re in control. I THINK I believe that you’ll provide all my needs. I THINK I believe that nothing can separate me from your love. I THINK I can trust you with my child, or my future, or my cancer.”         “I DO believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”

 

But what’s so great about this/ is that Jesus never expects PERFECT faith. Or complete faith. Absolute faith. He can work with faith THE SIZE OF A MUSTARD SEED. He’s the ultimate micro surgeon. Working with things SO SMALL you need a microscope to see them.

 

Have you got faith THAT big? Enough to ask Jesus to step in, and HELP your unbelief?

 

The man does. Because Jesus does his work again. Verse 25. He rebukes the Spirit, it comes out of the boy, and Jesus helps him to his feet. Healed and whole.

 

And the theme of faith continues. Look at what happens next. Verse 28.

(Mark 9:28-29 NIV)  After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” {29} He replied, “This kind can come out ONLY BY PRAYER.”

 

In other words, “When YOU tried/ you didn’t PRAY. You just ASSUMED that because you’d done it before, you could do it again. You didn’t express your DEPENDENCE ON GOD by asking for HIS help”

 

And WE’RE tempted to do that, aren’t we? You’ve done something BEFORE, and it’s turned out alright. You’ve taught Kid’s Church, or lead Bible study, or been on a camp, or spoken to your neighbour, or survived a day at work. Perhaps you’ve even done it REALLY WELL. And God’s blessed what you’ve done.

 

And so you ASSUME you can do it again. You assume that, in your own strength, you can cope with this same situation again.

 

But that’s not the way of the Kingdom. Jesus says that KINGDOM KIDS DEPEND ON THEIR FATHER IN PRAYERFUL FAITH. Every day. In everything. Again and again.

 

My Science Coordinator, when I was teaching, used to pray EVERY MORNING in our Staff prayer meeting. “Help us to teach. WE CAN’T DO THIS BY OURSELVES. Guide our mouths and our minds and our hands. Without you we’re hopeless.” He’d been a teacher for more than 20 years! You’d think that if ANYONE could do it by himself it would be Rick. But no. WE CAN’T DO THIS BY OURSELVES.

 

Maturity in the kingdom isn’t about becoming LESS dependant. The more you grow as a kingdom kid, the MORE dependant you become.

 

Kingdom kids depend on their Father in prayerful faith. Are you willing to apply?

 

2. Kingdom kids put even little children first (9:33-42)

The next part of Jesus’ job description/ is that Kingdom kids even put little children first.

 

After the healing they travel a bit further up the road. And, as they walk, Jesus overhears the disciples talking. Bragging really. Perhaps Peter, James and John had been reminding the others about their failure to cast out the spirit. Or filling them in on what they’d seen up on the mountain But look at what happens when they settle in for the night. Verse 33.

(Mark 9:33-34 NIV)  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 natural human way is to establish a pecking order. To compare yourselves to others. Who am I better than? Who can I beat? Who’s faults can I pick out/ to make me feel better about myself?

 

And Jesus tells them they’ve got it all wrong. That’s not what the kingdom is about at all. Kingdom kids even put little children first. Verse 35.

…”If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” {36} He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him 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.”

 

“It’s a good thing to want to excel”, Jesus is saying. To be the best. To be at the top. But you don’t get there/ the way the world reckons.

 

Do this instead. Welcome little ones. Build up others. Encourage the hopeless. Help the helpless. Stand beside the smelly, and the inappropriate, and the rejects and fringe-dwellers. That’s the way to welcome me and my Father. That’s what kingdom kids do!”

 

And just to let us know that Jesus isn’t talking just about LITERAL CHILDREN, John chooses that moment to pipe up. And Jesus couldn’t have picked a better example if he’d actually set John up. Because what he says is a perfect illustration of what NOT to do. Look at v 38.

(Mark 9:38-42 NIV)  “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” {39} “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “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. {41} I tell you the truth, anyone who gives YOU A CUP OF WATER in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. {42} “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.

 

John and the other disciples had told a man who was driving out demons to stop because he didn’t belong to Jesus’ group. Now what’s ironic here is that the guy was ACTUALLY BEING SUCCESSFUL. Demons were actually being driven out! Because he was DOING IT IN Jesus’ name. Doing it with his authority. Doing it with prayerful faith. Exactly what the disciples WEREN’T doing.

 

And by telling him to stop, Jesus says they were doing the EXACT OPPOSITE of WELCOMING the little children. They were DISCOURAGING them. They were putting others down to elevate themselves. They assumed they had the sole claim to truth.

 

And Jesus says that even LITTLER children will make it in. The main ingredient is that they do things IN HIS NAME. “Anyone who EVEN GIVES YOU A CUP OF WATER in my name will get his reward.”

 

The important thing/ is doing WHATEVER YOU DO in faith, and trust, and dependence on Jesus. No matter HOW little. HOW insignificant. Because that’s what kingdom kids do. Unlike the disciples.

 

We need to learn that lesson too. Do we dismiss people because they’re not as mature as us, or they haven’t memorised “Two Ways To Live”? Do we assume that people from other denominations have nothing to teach us?

 

How often are your conversations one-sided? I don’t mean that you never stop talking. But that when you do give the other person a chance to talk. It’s only so you can think of the next important thing you want to say.

 

Don’t write someone off, and assume they have nothing to teach you. I’ve been WONDERFULLY surprised in situations where I felt like I was the one who was meant to be doing the ministering/ to find that I came away from it having RECEIVED more than I gave.

 

Put the little ones first. Don’t assume you have the sole rights on truth. That’s what kingdom kids do.

 

3. Kingdom kids unconditionally accept the kingdom as a miraculous gift (10:13-31)

Jesus’ third point is into the next chapter. Kingdom kids UNCONDITIONALLY ACCEPT THE KINGDOM AS A MIRACULOUS GIFT. And once again, it’s got to do with children. Have a look at Ch 10 v 13.

(Mark 10:13-14 NIV)  People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. {14} When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD BELONGS TO SUCH AS THESE.

 

The disciples haven’t really learned much. Because they’re STILL not welcoming the little children. And Jesus was indignant. “Kids like this are what the kingdom is all about” he says.

 

But now his point’s a little bit different. Instead of just saying we must welcome little children. He says we must WELCOME like little children. We must RECEIVE THE KINGDOM like little children. Look at v15.

(Mark 10:15-16 NIV)  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not RECEIVE THE KINGDOM OF GOD LIKE A LITTLE CHILD will never enter it.” {16} And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

 

How do little children receive things? Do any of your children ever get to dinner time, and start worrying “I wonder if Mum’s going to feed me tonight!” “I wonder if my clothes will be ready for school tomorrow. Gee, I hope mum makes me lunch.”

 

What child ever turned up to soccer saying “Gee, I hope someone wants to coach us this year”. They just ASSUME that adults will just be FALLING OVER THEMSELVES to come out on a cold night and yell at a bunch of rowdy, disobedient 8 years olds.

 

Kids ASSUME that things will be there for them. They assume that they’ll be looked after.

 

And Jesus says we’re to be the same when it comes to the gift of the Kingdom. When it comes to being Jesus’ friend. And accepting God’s forgiveness. We’re to accept it like children.

 

It should be an easy lesson. But it’s such a hard lesson to learn, isn’t it.

 

Our natural inclination is to EARN our gifts. We don’t like accepting gifts from people because it puts us in their debt. Have you ever had that awkward social situation at Christmas were someone buys YOU a gift, but you haven’t bought them one? We just want to race out and find a 7-11 that’s open, and buy them ANYTHING. A car deodorizer, or a box of tissues. Anything/ rather than be in someone’s debt!

 

And when it comes to God/ we do it just as much. Try to EARN our salvation. We just can’t accept that we could ever be good enough for God to give us anything. And so we try to add something extra. Work that little bit harder. Offer that little bit more. Because then we won’t be so much in God’s debt.

 

Like the rich young man in the next section. Verse 17.

(Mark 10:17 NIV)  As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I DO to inherit eternal life?”

 

Have you ever noticed how RIDICULOUS that sounds? What must I DO to INHERIT eternal life? There’s NOTHING you can DO to receive an inheritance. It’s a gift.

 

And while we don’t have time to go into that whole story, Jesus concludes with a wonderful statement. The disciples can’t understand how ANYONE can make it into the kingdom if it’s as hard as a camel squeezing through the eye of a needle. And look at what Jesus replies. Verse 27.

(Mark 10:27 NIV)  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

 

Accept it! Accept it like a little child! The kingdom is a gift. It’s impossible for you do EARN it. But anything’s possible with God.

 

Kingdom kids unconditionally accept the kingdom as a miraculous gift.

 

That’s Jesus’ job description.

 

He doesn’t promise that it will be easy. But I reckons it’s worth the risk. Listen again to the fringe benefits. Verse 29.

(Mark 10:29-30 NIV)  “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel {30} will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

 

What a great job!

 

1. Kingdom kids depend on the Father in prayerful faith.

2. Kingdom kids put even little children first.

3. Kingdom kids unconditionally accept the kingdom as a miraculous gift (10:13-31)

 

Are you willing to apply?

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