Mark 9:30-36

September 8, 2019

Listen to the stories of these people. You have likely heard about all of them. After I share a summary of something each one of them did, I want you to think of what each of them has in common with the other.

On December 1, 1955, in segregated Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the “colored section” of a bus to a white passenger when ordered to do so by the driver. Her nonaction had her arrested. She lost her job and received death threats for many years. However, her action became a powerful symbol of the modern civil rights movement, and Rosa became an international icon. She went on to organize and collaborate with civil rights leaders, wrote an autobiography, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. The United States Congress called her “the first lady of human rights.”

In the 1980s, AIDS arrived on the world stage. It was a new, frightening disease with no cure and was rampaging through communities and countries. People believed that you could catch AIDS from touching someone who had it or by sitting on the same toilet seat. Sufferers were shunned, and up to 50% of people polled in the United States believed that those with AIDS should be quarantined. (Ibid)

On April 19, 1987, Princess Diana, one of the most famous people in the world, opened the first unit in the United Kingdom dedicated to treating people with HIV and AIDS. During her visit, she shook the hand of an AIDS patient without wearing gloves, and changed people’s perceptions of the disease forever. (Ibid)

Malala grew up in northwest Pakistan, where the Taliban had often banned girls from attending school. She became a vocal supporter of female education after a Taliban gunman shot her three times in the head in an assassination attempt. (Ibid)

She survived, and the attack provoked worldwide outrage, and in Pakistan, it led to the ratification of the Right to Education Bill. Since her recovery, Malala became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, addressed the United Nations, met world leaders, and founded the non-profit Malala Fund. (Ibid)

In 2010, a collapse at the San Jose copper-gold mine in northern Chili trapped 33 men 700-meters underground. Foreman Luis Urzua immediately recognized the seriousness of the accident and took charge, organizing the men for a long-term survival situation, helping them cope mentally with the situation. He made detailed maps of the area to help with the rescue effort and coordinated closely with engineers on the surface. (Ibid)

He was the last man to be rescued and remained cool and calm under pressure. When everyone was rescued, he said, “It’s been a bit of a long shift.” (Ibid)

By looking at the sermon title, you should know the answer to my question: “What do these people have in common?”

 Among other things, they share the quality of leadership.

John Maxwell says that a leader is one who “knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”

There are too many people following too many people who do not know the way. They are leaders, if you want to give them that designation, but are leading people the wrong way.

We need to be very careful who we follow.

In Matthew 7:15, Jesus said: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

In Jesus’ day, a prophet was someone who said he had knowledge from God about how people should live their lives.

Jesus said there are a lot of insincere people in this world. Some people masquerade themselves as sheep when they are wolves. Their desire is not to lead people to God but to lead people for personal gain.

So how do we determine authentic leaders from those that have motives that will lead us down destructive paths?

Well, is there anyone that will argue that Jesus is the most exceptional leader ever to live?

Why don’t we look at Jesus’ leadership style for some answers?

 The Apostle Paul wrote that even though Jesus “was in the form of God, (he) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Power can be toxic. It is easily misused and misplaced. When people abuse and misplace power, we lose trust in them. That is one of the reasons it is so difficult to find leaders today that everyone respects.

A lot of people seek a leadership role because they are looking to acquire the power that comes with it.

Jesus was different. Jesus already had power. He came into the world in the form of God.  You can’t have any more power than to be God.

It is true that he came into the world as a baby, vulnerable, meek, and mild. Yet He was Emmanuel. He was God in the flesh.

He grew in knowledge and wisdom and understood His uniqueness. The scripture says that He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.

Jesus did not feel any need or feel compelled to prove to anyone that he was equal with God in any way by seeking to grasp power.

Most leaders need to let others know that they are the boss, that they are the lead dog and everybody else better get in line.

Jesus modeled a leadership style which takes a lot of strength to emulate.

Jesus took on the role of a servant.  He emptied himself. He washed feet. He identified with the broken-hearted. He touched lepers and the unclean. He fed the hungry. He healed the sick. He spoke to people he knew that had lived ungodly lives.

If you want a real leader, find one that will work beside you and not one that just barks out orders.

If you want a real leader, find one that is humble and not one that’s looking for all the accolades.

If you want a real leader, find one that doesn’t care who gets the credit as long as the job gets done.

If you want a real leader, find one that that’s willing to make sacrifices so that the mission can be accomplished.

If you want a leader, find one that isn’t all about himself or herself but is interested in the lives of others.

Once as they were walking together, the disciples argued about which one of them was the greatest. I can only imagine how that conversation must have gone.

Peter boasted about his ability to find fish on the Sea of Galilee, about how he could feed an entire village with one cast of his net.

Andrew said that he was the greatest because he was the one that made Peter’s nets.

Each spoke of how valuable they had been to Jesus in his ministry and they had become adequate fishers of men as Jesus had predicted.

James and John said their business was larger and more profitable, and so they were more valuable to the Master.

Matthew laughed. He said at the end of the day he’d collected taxes from all of them and the people around the lake. He knew how to make more money and do less work.

As for his value to the Master, he said he had more contact with people in Galilee than any of them. Perhaps that’s why Jesus chose him to be a part of the team.

Philip, James, and Thaddaeus, all made their cases, while Judas mostly kept silent. Judas led in subversive way.  He figured the rest of them would thank him for his skills one day.

These conversations are just a part of my imagination, but each disciple had his reasons for thinking he was the greatest.

We are not so unlike them at various times in our live as we  compare ourselves to others.  Sometimes, it’s not out of character for any of us the think we are better than someone else.

But the conversations of the disciples turned to shame after they reached Capernaum and went inside a house and Jesus asked:

“What were you arguing about on the road?” 34  They kept silent, for on the road they had been arguing among themselves about who is greater. 35  So he sat down and called the Twelve and said to them: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and minister of all.” Mark 9:33b-34

No doubt they remembered the last time Jesus celebrated the Passover Meal with them, and when there was no one present to do the customary washing of their feet as they entered the room that night, Jesus took the towel and the basin of water, and he washed his disciple’s feet.

Afterward “when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his Master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:12-17 NIV).

This is leadership.

I know. It does not feel like leadership when you are sitting in the nursery rocking a child, but it is.

I know. It does not feel like leadership when you are sharing food at the food bank each week, but it is.

It doesn’t feel like leadership when you work on a Habitat house, or give your time at the Ark, or run a 5K at the Turkey Can Run, or donate items to Peace Place, but it is.

It does not feel like leadership when you are secretly praying for a person that is hurting, who not in church. They are angry at God, estranged from the church, and need a friend, but it is.

It does not feel like leadership when you sit and listen to a friend that is hurting, but it is.

It does not feel like leadership when you attend choir practice or band practice, but it is.

It does not feel like leadership when we serve food in the food line, invite someone to church, attend a committee meeting, faithfully give your money and time to God, but it is.

It doesn’t feel like leadership when you offer encouragement, write a card, or make a phone call, but it is.

John Maxwell says that a leader knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way.

Jesus told us, “I am the way, the truth, and the light.”

Jesus showed the way by his examples of servant leadership.

He very clearly and plainly said, “Copy me. Live your life like I lived mine. If you want to be blessed, then serve each other. Do for each other what I have done for you.”

When we do that, we become leaders. As leaders, we are pointing people to Jesus and not toward ourselves.

Today, are you a follower or a leader?

You might be saying, “Well, we can’t all be leaders.” I’m saying, “Yes, we can.”

We can all be leaders because there is a lost world out there that needs you to lead them to Jesus.

Paul wrote to the Romans, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)

A leader is someone who knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way. Unless you go, and show, how will people know?

People are not likely to come to Jesus because of some arrogant, overconfident, know-it-all religious leader. If they do, they sometimes discover these people are wolves in sheep’s clothing with motives that are self-serving and not pure.  When they come to faith through these people, they often become disillusioned and fall away.

People are more likely to come to Jesus when they meet humble, servant-oriented people who are not power-hungry but filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and driven to serve others in the name of Jesus because Jesus has commanded us to do so.  When we do this, we can do some amazing things.

Are you that kind of person?

Some people have left their mark on history because they were selfless, sacrificial, other’s focused, humble, generous, and courageous.

All of us leave our mark on the kingdom of God if we lead like Jesus led, by emptying ourselves and taking the form of a servant.

When we do that, we have discovered the secret to being a leader.

As a result of our leadership, we point others to the one we are following, Jesus Christ.

That’s the kind of leader God wants all of us to be – one who leads others to Jesus.

Would you pray and ask God to make that kind of leader today?