Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 26, 2012
Ephesians 3:14-21, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
How is it that God makes His love for us tangible, concrete, practical and touchable? The Psalmist David, who penned the words (“My Times are in God’s Hands”) found on the front cover of today’s worship bulletin knew the answer to that question. God uses, Jesus uses, His hands. If you want to look it up, the reference alluded to on the cover of the worship bulletin is from Psalm 31:15. Wrestling with the anguish of physical weakness, anyone here able to relate to that? Distressed by grief and the losses he had sustained in his life – anyone here ever experienced those things? Attacked, forsaken and forgotten by friends and enemies alike – anyone here know how that feels? Dealing with all of those difficult dilemmas, what does David the psalmist do? Where does he end up?
3 Times, at least as I observed it in my reading and study of this passage, Psalm 31, David the psalmist refers to God’s hands, and concludes, “This is how I know that You love me, God. This is how…” Verse 8 – “You have not handed me over to the enemy, but You have set my feet in a wide place, a roomy, spacious location.” This is how I know that You care about me. You hands. Verses 14 and 15 – “As for me, You are my God. As far as I am concerned, I trust in You, O Lord. My times, every day, every house, every minute, every second of my life is in Your hands.” This is how I know that You know what I’m going through. Psalm 31:5 - David the psalmist bolding exclaims, “Into Your hands, O God, I commit my spirit.”
How is it that God makes His love for us tangible, practical, concrete, touchable? Anybody ever see one of these? Anybody ever noticed hands stretched out like this? Ultimately, that’s how the apostle Paul defines and describes the love of God, the love of Christ, for us, in the text we read at the outset from Ephesians 3, isn’t it? Paul depicts the love of God, the love of Christ, in cross-sized, cross-shaped dimensions. I want to know, I’m praying that you might know and experience the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, all the width, length, depth and height of God’s love for you in Jesus Christ.
We’ve been examining that subject, haven’t we, through the lens of the gospel of Mark, a portrait of the life of Jesus penned by one of Peter’s dear friends, John Mark. And what have we learned so far? We have learned that Jesus, the Servant who rules, with His hands he cleansed a leper, effected a healing, helping, cleansing, with His hands. We’ve learned that Jesus, the Servant who rules, with His hands, quieted a raging fever ravaging the body of Peter’s mother-in-law. His hands calmed her. Restored strength to her. We’ve learned that Jesus, the Servant who Rules, who has authority over leprosy and fevers, also has power, authority, to illuminate the darkness, to give sight to the blind, to open deaf ears and loosen bound up tongues. Yes, we have learned, isn’t it amazing? Isn’t it glories? That Jesus, the Servant who rules, also has power with His hands and His words, over DEATH! A little girl, Jairus’ precious daughter, Jesus spoke to her the tender words, the life-giving words, ‘Talitha Cummi,’ ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise!’
In the first 8 chapters of the gospel of Mark, we watch in wonder and amazement at how God, using the hands of Jesus His Son, the Servant who rules, says, ‘This is how you know, that I love you!’ But then, beginning in chapter nine, Peter, an up-close, and very, very personal eye-witness to all that John Mark relates to us in the Book, Peter shows us how that Jesus is not only the Servant who rules, but listen, He also is the Ruler, the King of Kings and Lord of lords, who serves. Would you take time with me this morning to walk up and down and around Mark chapter nine and ten, and observe with me the love of God at work, through the hands of Jesus, the Ruler who serves.
First of all, notice with me the context, the background, the ‘shadow’ if you will, that looms large over this entire section. Mark 9:1-8 – We call that section the record of the transfiguration of Jesus. Up to this point in the narrative of this gospel, the emphasis has been on the Servant who rules. Now, in this incredible experience with Jesus, Moses and Elijah, on that mountain, Peter, James and John begin to have their eyes opened to the fact that Jesus is not only a Servant who rules, who has authority over fevers and leprosy and blindness and death. But that He also is, God, Jesus’ Father says and shows them that He is also the Ruler who serves. THE One, not one of the ones, but THE One that they must worship, serve and obey!
But mountain-top lessons, you know this don’t you? Spiritual mountain-top lessons are often quickly forgotten in the nitty, gritty of life’s ‘valleys’, aren’t they? The very next day, the very next section of Mark 9, Peter, James and John come down from that mountain with Jesus, and they, along with their fellow disciples, are confronted with the nitty, gritty, bad and ugly problem of demonic oppression and the devastation it causes in people’s lives. A desperate father had brought his young son to Jesus’ disciples, thinking that they, like their Master, could help them. They couldn’t. They hadn’t been able to do a thing to help this man or his son. In fact, the first part of the text seems to indicate that the disciples had gotten side-tracked with a debate they were having with the scribes. And Jesus, quickly analyzing the situation, was not happy! “How long! How long am I going to have to put up with you guys and your lack of faith?” But, then look at what happens next. Jesus, the Ruler who serves, doesn’t do what so many other rules would do, He doesn’t leave the problem to His bumbling underlings. No! What does He do? Jesus speaks the words this desperate father had been hoping he’d hear all along. “Bring the boy to Me.” Jesus, the Great One, as testified by God Himself on transfiguration mountain , with His words, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of this boy and enter him no more!” Jesus, with His words, AND with His hands, lifts up an otherwise helpless young man and restores him, whole and strong, to his father. What a blessing. What an amazing miracle, right? But, listen, is the lesson over, finished, as far as Jesus’ disciples are concerned? Remember? They had been helpless, powerless, to assist this man and his son. What did they need to learn from this encounter? The right words to say? The proper magical formula to follow to perform a miracle? No! They needed to learn, to know, to live by what Jesus, the Ruler who serves, lived by. Verse 29, “This kind comes out by nothing but by prayer and fasting.” In other words, ‘yes, I’m the Ruler, but listen, fellows, I can do nothing, I am powerless to help people like this boy and his father, apart from the strength of My Father in heaven!’ Have you learned that lesson, that basic A-B-C’s kind of lesson, regarding serving and ministering? Have I?
Press on with me, would you? Jesus, the Servant who rules, and now, in this the second and final half of Mark’s gospel, Jesus, the Ruler who serves, He has another mountain in view, doesn’t He? What mountain is that? Verses 30-32 – It’s a hill called Calvary, right? Jesus, the Ruler, in His ultimate act of service, and atoning sacrifice, would soon stretch out His hands on a Cross and by that answer the question once and for all, about how much God loves us.
But, He wasn’t there yet and certainly His disciples were a long ways from understanding that, weren’t they? How do we know that? Well, in verse 32, the text says it plainly, doesn’t it? It says that the disciples did not understand what Jesus was trying to teach them about His coming death, and not only that, but they were also afraid even to ask Him about it. But, then notice the very next section of the passage. It contains a lesson on leadership and ministry that the disciples were very, very slow to learn.
Verses 33 and following, Jesus is the Ruler, the Great One, right? In chapters one through eight He showed it repeatedly through His miracles of helping and healing, right? And, then, beginning with the transfiguration event, and the declaration of God Himself, the second half of this Gospel proclaims the same message, right? Jesus is the Great One. But, look who’s arguing the point. Look who’s missing the point. 12 thick-headed, hard-hearted men Jesus had chosen to follow Him. Jesus is the Ruler, the Great One, for sure. But how does He define greatness? How does He show, demonstrate, what His kind of greatness is all about? ‘Okay, fellows. It’s time to gather around for another ‘skull session’, another teachable moment. Verses 35 and following. ‘Let me tell you what real greatness is all about. Real greatness is all about serving. In the very next chapter, Jesus reinforces the very same lesson with these words, “Even the Son of Man,” that’s an Old Testament Messianic title with every bit as much declaration of Jesus’ greatness as God His Father spoke on transfiguration mount. Mark 10:45, Jesus says, “Even the Son of Man, as great as He is, and will be, did not come to BE served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
How does Jesus define true greatness? The Great One says, ‘I’m here to serve and to give up My life for you.’ And, how does He demonstrate that greatness? He uses His hands! Verse 36 – “Then Jesus took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when Jesus had taken the little fellow in His arms, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘whoever receives one of these little ones in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me, but Him who sent Me.”
My loved ones, do you see it? Do you? Jesus, the Servant who rules, Jesus, the Ruler, the Great One who serves, He is building a kingdom with His hands. And He wants you to be a part of that kingdom of love and light. But to be a part of that kingdom, what must we do? We must die. We must die to the selfish striving for our own greatness. We must die to us that we might live in Him, through Him, and most of all, for Him. Jesus said it this way, and with these words we will close:
Mark 8:34-35, “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
The serving, saving, self-sacrificing hands of Jesus, stretched out on Calvary’s cross, that’s how God makes His love for us tangible! That’s how!