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18th October 2015 – Twentieth after Trinity – Jack Noonan

Sermon (Click Link to Listen)

Bible Readings: Psalm 91. 9-16; Hebrews 5. 1-10; Mark 10. 35-45

Sermon 18/10/2015

Focus Scriptures: Mark 10:35-45. Hebrews 5:1-19

1.Context

The setting of today’s Gospel reading comes from the latter end of the 10th chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus is on the move.Jerusalem awaits. Here we are in Judea…then Trans-Jordan finishing in Jericho.

In Trans Jordan with a crowd listening, Jesus debates deftly with some Pharisees the issue of divorce. Then when local children seek to get close to Him the disciples sternly rebuke them… Jesus reacts strongly, making it clear, that only those who possess the accepting, open nature of a child will enter the kingdom of God.

Further on, Jesus and the disciples encounter the rich young man who wants to know how to inherit eternal life. There were exceptionally fine qualities about him that struck Jesus. Nevertheless, in the heel of the hunt, the dismayed young man rejects Christ’s invitation to give his wealth to the poor and to follow Him… prompting Jesus to observe:

How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!

This leaves the disciples perplexed and wondering out loud how anyone could ever be saved.

He further frightens them forewarning them again of His impending arrest, trial, death, and resurrection. Dark days of suffering lay ahead.

Then comes today’s extract, followed by the account of Christ’s arrival in Jericho and the commotion caused by the blind but tenacious, faith filled Bartimaeus determined not to lose his miracle.

In today’s passage we see that Jesus, physically and spiritually, is much further down the road than His apostles.

2.The Question

James and John, the Sons of Thunder, clearly exhibit this…. with forward planning on their minds, cutely spotting an opportune moment… canter ahead of the others to have a quiet word in the ear of Jesus re securing for themselves the two most pre-eminent positions in Christ’s future kingdom. Fools literally rushing in where angels wouldn’t even tip toe.

Jesus listens, then ask: ‘You do not know what you are asking? Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’

It is good to note that in their self-centred question, James and John, at least, get one thing right. They recognise Jesus is destined for great glory sometime, somewhere.

Despite not fully undersanding what Jesus meant by His question: . Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’

The brothers instantly and unthinkingly answered; ‘Yes we can.’

We do well to enlist the guidance of the Holy Spirit in relation to what we should pray for. It is good that some prayers I have prayed were not answered, as I wanted.

Fortunately, the Father protects us from ourselves. Prayers are answered…sometimes the answer is ‘Yes’ , sometimes the answer is not what we expect and so we can often miss it. Other times the answer is simply: ‘No’.

Replying to John and James’ ‘Yes we can’ answer, Jesus prophesies ‘Ye shall dryncke of the cup that I shall dryncke of and be baptised with the baptyme that I shall be baptysed in’. (Tyndale translation of 1525)

The use of ‘shall’ in this verse as distinct from ‘will’ is significant. ‘Shall’ is generally used in the first person singular or plural, but when it is used, as in this verse, in the second person (singular or plural) it implies a command, or promise, or threat by the speaker eg’’You shall regret that before long…’’.

While ‘will’ can be used without changing the intended meaning the use of ‘shall’ is associated with formality and/or seriousness in addition to colouring/shading the meaning.

3.The Baptism

So when Jesus tells the brothers…and those within earshot that they shall be :

Baptised with the baptyme that I shall be baptysed in…

Jesus is giving a word of prophesy, and distinguishing this forthcoming baptism with that performed by John in the Jordan some years earlier.

Jesus speaks of this baptism also in Luke :

I have a baptism to undergo, and how constrained I am until it is accomplished’

He sees his forthcoming arrest, trial, torture, together with the literal overwhelming and breaking of His heart on the cosmic cross as a baptism. This baptism will be an immersion into all humanities evil actions from Adam to the edge of doom. All humanity’s sin, its deliberate inhumanities, the rancid moral foulness of our corruption, all disease, all suffering, and the terrors of death; so as to redeem us and reconcile us with Father- God.

We are all eternally beholden to the suffering servanthood of Jesus

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give His life for a ransom of many.’

4.The Cup

Coupled with the image of baptism in our passage, there is also the image of ‘the cup’.

The Cup that Jesus prayed to be freed from. Scripture says of this cup in:

Ps 75:

There is a cup in the Lord’s hand with foaming wine fully mixed; from this He pours; all the wicked of the earth drink, draining it to the very dregs….’

Isaiah: ‘the cup of God’s anger….the cup of reeling.’

In Jeremiah: ‘the cup of the wine of God’s fierce wrath’

Ezekiel: the cup of horror and desolation’ .

No doubt,throughout His growning up and public life, Jesus’ heart had many a frightened beat from premonitions of this ‘cup’. The cup of our ’just desserts’ lurked in the shadows of His subconscious. Solid one moment, a shadow the next.

Driving Him to wrestle unceasingly in prayer with our All-Sustaining Father.

For once Jesus, the eternally begotten Son of God clothed himself with our humanity he entered into the pit of our pain, suffering, and death. For as a human being Jesus was, as yet, untried and untested:

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered and having been made perfect He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him’

5.The Fear

What was it that Jesus feared and dreaded so much that He was driven to pray unceasingly?

In Hebrews we read:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications (Wycliffe ..’beseechings’) with loud crys( Tyndale ..’stronge cryinge’) to the One Who was able to save Him from death, and he was heard because of His reverent submission (Tyn…’godliness…Wyc…’reverence’)

Why were His prayers and supplications to the Father so marked by ‘beseechings’, ‘strong cryings’, ’loud cries’…and tears?

Was it an intuitive foreboding of the horrors of Holy Week, when: ‘for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross’.

Trusting the Father for ultimate vindication and entering the nihilism of forsakenness, might have been an issue for Jesus, the man and son of humankind !

But maybe there was a greater and more dreadful fear than the anticipation of Calvary or being forsaken by our Father…that drove Him to strive, wrestle, cry out, and plead.

Yes there was; it was the fear of sinning. This man must be utterly sinless and spotless. One act of pride, covetousness, murmuring, mistrust, lust, unbelief, or disobedience…

For we know:

He was tempted in all ways as we are….and was yet without sin.

If the Sinless One sins!

With that one sin, Jesus’ ability to be our Saviour, to reconcile us to Almighty God and secure our eternal salvation is utterly destroyed.

The pure unblemished Lamb instantly becomes an impure, blemished, unworthy for sacrifice. All would be lost.

The Lord Jesus lived with that unrelenting pressure in one way or another, at one level of consciousness or another all His human life.

Jesus knew well the contents of this ancient accursed cup.

He threw Himself on the ground and prayed ; ‘Abba, Father all things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will but what You will.’

The answer was ‘No’.

6.The Love

From His love of the Father… to His love of us… Jesus did not let this cup pass from Him, though the anguish and horrors of its contents so affected His metabolism that He sweat drops of blood.

In being as an obedient Lamb to the slaughter He created a new cup…

the cup of blessing…which we bless is it not a sharing… in…of….with Jesus the suffering servant, the resurrected ascended one, redeemer, friend, and brother… who ever lives and makes intercession for us.’

We cannot ignore so great a salvation.

Purchased at so great a cost to the Godhead.

Salvation from sin, meaninglessness, guilt, bondage, condemnation, death, hell, and the devil.

7.The Conclusion

Today’s readings have much more to say than this sermonette can cover…

It behoves us to deepen our relationship with the Lord .

Examine the radical nature of our discipleship as outline in our readings.

What are the implications for us when we read Jesus ‘came NOT to be served but to serve’?

Take comfort that Jesus.. our mediator and judge… triumphed as a human being through grace. The same grace is freely available to us through Jesus.

8.Saved by Grace for Service

Our salvation is a free gift from the Lord.

Grace enables us to see and accept the gift of salvation and happily live a life ‘in/of service.

Nothing in the Cosmos but God’s grace and love sustains us…especially if and when we are called share the suffering and death of Jesus.

Look and learn from our brothers and sisters in Syria who because of clinging to Christ, are raped, beheaded and crucified, by the dark and evil forces of hate.

Gloriously, of these martyred church members…we read in Revelation:

‘…they have conquered him (satan) by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, …the devil ‘knows his time is short’.

9.Love your enemy

God is love, we must never forget that; we, needs must, continue to entreat Him, in Christ; for the grace to love, plead, and intercede for those who would hate us.

10.Confidence in God….we are the apple of His eye.

‘ Now unto him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,  To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen’.