The Servant King Gives Weight to His Lordship – Mark 12:35-44
We, as a church, have been looking at the gospel of Mark, we have been looking at Jesus’ life, his ministry, the words that He said, why He said what He had to say, the miracles he performed, the people who have been impacted by this person, what faith is, what love is, what does it mean to begin anew, we looked at how legalism destroys the gospel, looking at why He suffered, what does His death really mean for us, how does the hope of His resurrection really help us to face tomorrow. So for those who have been preaching on Sunday service and leading bible studies in our small groups – all of us have been carefully reading, reflecting, rehearsing what the book of Mark is trying to tell us – and what this book is highlights is that it is deeply Jesus centered. He already sets the agenda, the direction, desire for all of us to see: Jesus. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, THE SON OF GOD; it sets the table, the agenda of this book. A very, very high view of Christology; Christ – centered – or shall I say, GOSPEL CENTERED. And Mark, without any hesitation, is unpacking for us, to listen, to see how he is unfolding Christ – how he is unpacking who Christ is – specifically, his identity. Who Jesus is matters? It matters to Mark and it really, really should matter to everyone of us? Who is Jesus? That’s the one question that has been gnawing at me while I was preparing for this message – who is Jesus to me? Who is Jesus to you?
Now, you got to remember the time and the age that we live – we live in an age where the number one question that people ask is: who is Jesus. There is a big billboard on 294- that runs the ad asking that precise question: Who is Jesus. Jesus’ identity has been the center of attention in our day and the question of his identity dominates throughout this book; Jesus once said in Mark 8: Who do you say that I am? Many unbelievers and even churched folks are still asking that question; who in the world is Jesus? And for us to even try to understand that question; Jesus, in the passage, gives weight, such great importance, to His Lordship. And there are three important factors for us to see His Lordship for our lives: First,
- The basis of why we should consider Jesus as the Lord [v. 35-37]
Now, the big problem in our culture is how people are trying to shape the answer or give their own viewpoints to the question of Christ’s identity. Our American culture have (re)shaped the Son of God into their making, fashioning him into something more palatable to American tastes and acceptable to American sensibilities. It was once said in history that Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders and framers of America – had a Bible, he took a pair of scissors and cut the words of Christ out of his Bible. People have called it- the “Jefferson Bible” because it left out a big part of Christ’s identity – His birth, His deity, and the empty tomb. And that has been pretty much the way it has been – we cut Jesus the way I want Him to be, fashion Him, like what you like, take out what you don’t like about Christ – and have your own version of Christ. Our culture is reducing/cutting/refashioning Jesus to be a sharp psychologist, a friend who you can lean on – a wonderful great human being, a wonderful moral, nice, safe, Jesus. And what we need to ask ourselves this question: what kind of version of Christ are you longing for/hoping for/dreaming of?
CS Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity, once wrote on this very topic: I’m trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about [Jesus]: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say…you must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God…let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
The tragic reality is that we want Jesus to fit into our liking, we fashion Him to some guy who can fulfill all of our selfish wants & hopes & dreams – we want Jesus to fit into our own categories – think about it- what is it that you are longing about Jesus…? and that determines how you categorizes His identity: you really want Jesus to make you feel a little bit better about your life- that if He gives you something that you were longing for – you’ll feel good – it will calm your emotions or you fashion Him to be some sort of magic genie – to have Him at your disposable where you determine what you need for your life. See the problem is that we also try to put Jesus into our own categories – of what we want, what our hopes are, what are dreams would be, what our desires is – and that is exactly what’s happening in chapter 12 – look at everyone who was asking Jesus a question – the reality is that they wanted Jesus to fit into their making – these Pharisees wanted a Jesus who would fit into their legalist external religion so that they would retain their power. Then you have the Sadducees who wanted a Jesus to fit into their normal, right-here, right now kind of lifestyle. Then you have these disciples who wanted a Jesus to give them positions of influence, rank, visions of grandeur, to be great in the kingdom, no interest in Jesus’ kingdom. Then you have the people of Israel – they were looking for a Lord, who is in the line of the great king David, to restore some sort of earthly kingdom. They wanted Jesus to fit into their deepest hope. But when Jesus begins to ask them a question in v. 35– He is basically asking – is Jesus that you are looking at, the Christ, is He David’s Son or David’s Lord? That question shatters all the ways in which they try to fashion Him to be – another way of putting it – Is Jesus LORD or is He just a son of the great earthly king David?
Jesus is publicly revealing who He is – His identity – as He is headed to the cross -this was indeed Jesus’ question. You gotta understand that there was a lot of expectation that this Lord will be a son – or a descendant of David – there was this hope for a king in the lineage of the great, great king David. It was huge in Israel’s history. This Lord had to be a descendant of David. That was their assumption, that was their thought process – a son will be a king, they were looking at someone who will be our national warrior – our political king, our deliverer of David’s bloodline; this descendent will be a king. The problem, my loved ones, much similar to all of us – is that they (and us) can reduce Christ’s identity into our making- there was a huge, enormous error in their thinking – their error was that when they thought of a “son” as merely a descendent of David – they thought of Him as a mere man, a son of a king- a “son” that is stripped of his divinity. Their hope of this coming messiah is that they wanted a messiah to fit into their category. John Calvin commented: “their erroneous thinking was that this promised Redeemer, who would be David’s sons, would bring along with him nothing more elevated than human nature.”; just reduced him to mere man -they wanted a king to restore their national/political dreams – they wanted a king to fit into their making – that was their biggest hope, their biggest dream.
But Jesus – gives them the reason why they should really begin to consider Him as the LORD of LORDS. Jesus uses the inspired Scriptures (in which these scribes should be experts at) to explode their limited idea of the Lord Jesus Christ. He quotes Psalm 110 a psalm of David.; a kingly and a lordship psalm that essentially says: I’m THE Lord who is totally out of your categories, totally out of your deepest longings/hopes/dreams. You can’t fit me into your categories of your wants/hopes and dreams; I am much bigger; The sheer dimensions are astronomically different. It’s like taking a plane to outer space– the dimensions – the size- the breadth, width, depth, length doesn’t fit; – we want to take our hopes and wants and dreams into that plane and shoot to the moon – it doesn’t work but if you go on a rocket – the sheer size, the magnitude- the sheer significance. Then everything changes. I am the Lord that you can’t fit into your category of who I am. I’m not just an extension of David’s Son- but David’s Lord. He is David’s Sovereign. He is God’s Son who reigns as King seated at His Father’s right hand. This position is of the highest honor, the greatest honor, and the highest place of authority in the universe– positioning Him as a ruler, exalted to heaven, enthroned at the right hand of God Almighty.
But the manner in which HE shows His Lordship: subduing and conquering His enemy. At the cross – He conquered His enemy – He conquered death! But when we look at this passage in itself: what/who in the world is an enemy? CJ Mahaney’s definition; an enemy is anyone that contends/fights/compete for supremacy with God; it’s anyone lifting up their hearts against Him. There is only ONE supreme One but the moment we were born – we contested for supremacy. We want to be supreme, we fight to be supreme; we fight for self-glorification. And self-glorification comes very loud – like Mohammed Ali telling everybody that he is competing against “I am the greatest” but usually it comes very subtly- most of us, at least certainly me, I will never say that I want to be supreme but the heart does – humans were created in the image and likeness of God but since the fall, it’s a distorted image- because Adam wanted to be like God – he wanted to be supreme, in other words – in other words, not sure how to best put it but: we want to be THE WOW that people talk about, we want to be impressive. CS Lewis says in his book, “The Weight of Glory”: If we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will already be in us but not attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object.
[Illustration] Growing up, my parents wanted me to learn the piano- they wanted me to learn it because in church, there was this kid who was very, very good in piano, music was his thing; he picked it up really well so every year in our Indian church, we had this talent competition – and in that competition, my parents wanted me to be the supreme piano player, they wanted people to say – it’s not just that guy, it’s my son. And I remember playing something in the piano, messed up big time – reading the music notes, made mistakes, instead of hitting a C#, I hit the C, instead of a D note, I hit a high E- it was horrible. And I remember after the competition was over, faced the loss to that other guy, I remember going to every parent – seeking, asking, desiring for my proper place- asking them, “did I play the piano well” – even though my parents were contending for supremacy in their own way, that crushing piano experience helped me see how much I have always contended for supremacy. I want to be supreme.
To this day, even though I am not a piano player – I’m constantly competing for my “proper place” in all the wrong objects, not the true object, I am in rival of that object. More than ever, in this season of my life, right at this moment, I am seeing how much I contend with God for supremacy- and you almost don’t realize that until something bad happens to you – whatever that might be – it could be your failed hopes/dreams/desires and ambitions that you have – when those failed realities crushes you, destroys you, defeats you – then only will you realize what is the “thing” that you have made your LORD– you or Jesus. Until and till that place of defeat- that’s the only place you know grace; until God puts His rivals in their proper place, – until you realize that you are crushed and defeated by the supremacy of Christ, that’s when you realize grace. Because it can only be grace that takes you to Lordship of Christ.
If you really get grace, then you can never reduce Jesus to the Lord of your own making; rather grace reduces you – not to terrorize you but you can truly enjoy it. Grace allows us to see who is controlling us- when grace reduces you to that proper place, you are not a rival- you are not competing for supremacy- but rather you are competing for self-sacrificial service to the King of kings and Lord of lords. That’s where real change takes place, love begins to form and germinate, worship is redefined. You won’t see that until He is the Lord of Lords and not the Lord of your own making. Capturing His true identity changes everything about you, how you live, and how you relate to one another. (Implications are far and wide)
- A warning for those who consider themselves as lord [v. 38-40]
Jesus further teaches us – by giving us a warning – a “beware” (literally means watch out) statement for these scribes; for those who consider themselves as a lord- these mini lords. Jesus gives us two descriptions of these kinds of people who consider themselves as a lord:
(1) Their love for show time v. 38-39
These guys love to put on a show – they love to walk around (highlight these words) in their long robes, love to be greeted, love to have the best seats in the house; – they wear these longs robes- a long white mantle –love to show of their position, love to be greeted, to have the best seats- all these would classify as people with distinction – theirs is the deans list of parading their position and influence. At the root of their showtime is to have people deeply be impressed with them. It’s like – if an older person in our culture, in particular- the Indian culture especially, very respected, a teacher, a dad, a priest, a bishop walks into a room, people rise in respect but these scribes loved to parade it- love to show that off. James Edwards notes: When a scribe walked down the street or passed through the stores, the market place, everyone is expected to rise in respect. Their position and privilege fostered the desire to make an impression. Now, we may not necessarily love to walk around parading our position, influence, wearing long robes, or to have honor in the banquets – but our desire to be impressive lies at the heart of our own show-time. We love it when people are impressed with us. Its not the impression that we make is the problem – but it is how much we “like” to be impressive- that’s the problem. That word connects all in the sentence structure- it’s the we like, we LOVE- or literally – we WANT/DESIRE/WILLING- it’s expressing intention; there lies the problem. We want to make an impression.
One of the things that I am realizing as a parent (not just because that I am parent) but I see it more clearly in every facet of my life; sin is never compartmentalized into one area- but it affects all areas of life. Anyway – recently, my wife and I have been teaching my oldest kid – math. Let me tell you – she just don’t get it, esp those word problems. But there was this moment where we got so upset, so mad – how come you don’t get it and we did the unthinkable – we compared her to somebody else. And what I realized – why are we getting so mad- is it really because this can really help her, inform her, educate her for her own love for learning. NOPE. I was upset because my intention was to have people impressed with how well we teach our kids.
Even as a church – do we want to make an impression, be impressive with a grand children’s ministry, a grand small group curriculum, a grand church –(What or who are people impressed with: you or Jesus) if people are impressed with us – it’s a problem but if people are impressed with our Savior.
(2) Their instagram piety and heartless lifestyle v. 40
Look at v. 40 – they take advantage of others, they devour the vulnerable, in this context (they devour widows), no care, no concern, heartless and cold treatment of others while making long pious prayers – it’s all pretense, putting a mask on their piety and heartless lifestyle. One of the biggest dangers that our church will face or is facing is to have its members put on a mask, putting up a facade, false impressionable piety. Notice – they devour the vulnerable, the widows- so, on the horizontal level- they don’t really love other people, or having compassion for their lives, they use and abuse them but vertically – they can make lengthy prayers in public but privately no personal prayer, no relationship with God so they don’t really have any love for God, there is not love or regard for Him. So on both fronts – it’s just an image, an instagram with their uncompassionate lifestyle.
Tell me, loved ones, one of the things that I have been reflecting on- esp since I have been working –the one question that always come to mind is that: do I sincerely love other people. Do I really, really love them or do I use them. I mean –to love them for them. I began to really evaluate and probe my heart (this is in light of Steve’s message last week)– do I love people in my work place, do I love people in my church, do I sincerely love people. And sadly, what I have been realizing how much I don’t really love them. I love people if they are impressed with me, if they give me the best seats in the house- it shows the callousness of my own heart.
But I have been asking myself – why? Why has my heart become so calloused? I can really try to make an appearance before God and others but it doesn’t address the root of the problem. Till I fell into this verse in the Bible: Gal 5:6- the last part of that verse that says – faith working through love- faith working itself out in love– what does that mean?– my lack of love for other people is really a gospel issue–challenging truth: I believe Jesus has done everything for me and because of that; I can now do everything for you without needing you to do anything for me.
Think about that for a moment: how this power can transform every relationship that we have, if we really believed, how it transform our church, our city, our world; but the way that the world operate- the only way you can enjoy life is for you to get things – for you to accumulate, figure out a way for people to like you, to serve you, do things for you, to be a lord; but what these scribes and even me is failing to understand: because Jesus has done everything for me, I can do everything for you without needing you to do anything for me. So, the implication of my lack of love for other people is really a gospel belief issue. If I don’t really believe that everything I have in Christ I possess– if I don’t believe that – then what I end up doing is looking for ways that I can use, get things for you, devour you- that’s heartless, no love. Warning: our heartless lifestyle indicates that there is something about Jesus that we actually don’t believe. If faith is real, then we will not devour people, use people, manipulate people – we will only serve them with love. I can do everything for you without needing you to do anything for me only because I have the approval, the acceptance, love, and everything in Him.
If we try to live to be impressionable, pretense piety and no love for other people – it leads a greater judgment, a greater condemnation awaits but at the same time it can potentially leave us empty, broken, bleeding and falling apart – the greater our revelation – the greater our accountability – you will be held accountable by the LORD OF THE UNIVERSE.
III. Self-forgetfulness is the key to increasingly see Jesus as Lord of your life [v.41-44]
And finally, you a have short but a powerful section – completely contrasting everything that the scribes were doing; complete opposite to the super-showtime, pious scribes. And here – we have a poor widow (in v. 41-44), who offered 2 coins that make a penny, put in all that she got, all that she had to live on- moved Jesus to call his disciples to see what was happening and told them: – that she has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. Everyone gave out of their abundance but this poor widow, out of her poverty gave everything up. Her livelihood; really – she is good as a dead. All she had to live on, all that she had to live on- she put in more- Jesus says. The widow had nothing to spare – she forgets- abandons her life, lost sight of her life at a great, great cost and gave up what she could live on.
In a culture that’s focused on ME, ME- self-absorbed – this act is not very popular or there isn’t even a motivation for this kind of lifestyle until you begin to see what Jesus gave up for you. But it’s not just our culture – it’s how the Bible defines what sin is – sin is thinking that you are competent, that you have performed well – that’s what Jesus evaluated from the people who contributed “out of their abundance”- sin is thinking that you have performed well, your self-sufficient, self-satisfied, self-glorified-self-importance- it’s out of your abundance, thinking I have something to offer, it’s thinking that you are good, you are strong, competent. But counter-intuitively, the more self-absorbed, the more we become full of ourselves, life is never really enjoyable, or even satisfying; we become very restless. The only way we can find rest is to completely rest in Him. That means that the Lordship of Christ is not marked by our growing, independent abundant resources that we can accumulate; that we can get or achieve but rather it is marked by our growing dependence on Christ’s abundant resource for us. See, this women offer her life out of our poverty – see the only way to see your poverty is to see the sheer RICHNESS, the SHEER ABUNDANCE of Christ’s resources already given for you. Compared to that – it’s weak, it’s little, it’s nothing that’s the power of the gospel of His Lordship.
It’s not arriving at some point where we need Jesus less because we are getting better and better (contributing something out of our own abundant resources). No, it’s living out of your poverty that still has the audacity to completely forgets, abandons your very own life to Jesus. That’s true offering. Why? Why is this possible? Because Jesus gives up everything, ALL OF HIS RICHES, completely, full, emptied himself (Philippians 2), not that he can forget Himself – no, no. But on that FINAL JUDGMENT DAY, as GOD throws all those who refuse His Lordship into the sea of forgetfulness- they will be forgotten forever but when His Father looks to those who are in Christ, He can never, ever forget you. NEVER. Why? Because of the glorious, precious, costly life offered for us. And when we see that Life OFFERED for us in an increasing manner – we can say like Paul – I don’t consider my life worth anything to me (Acts 20:23), even if we really have amnesia as we get older – He will never forget about you.
 (2nd Samuel 7; Isaiah 11; 9; Jer 23; 33; Zech 3; 6; Jer 30; Ezel 34; 37; Hos 3)
 John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospels, p. 66