Faithlife Sermons

Characteristics of a Disciple

Gospel of Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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A local business looking for office help put a sign in the window saying: “HELP WANTED. Must be able to type, must be good with a computer and must be bilingual. We are an Equal Opportunity Employer.”
A short time later, a dog trotted up to the window, saw the sign and went inside. He looked at the receptionist and wagged his tail, then walked over to the sign, looked at it and whined. Getting the idea, the receptionist got the office manager. The office manager looked at the dog and was surprised, to say the least. However, since the dog looked determined, he led him into the office.
Inside, the dog jumped up on the chair and stared at the manager, who said, “I can’t hire you. You have to be able to type.”
The dog jumped down, went to the typewriter and typed out a perfect letter. He took out the page and trotted over to the manager, gave it to him and then jumped back on the chair. The manager was stunned, but then reminded the dog, “the sign says you have to be good with a computer.”
The dog jumped down again and went to the computer. He then demonstrated his expertise with various programs, producing a sample spreadsheet and database which he presented to the manager.
By this time the manager was totally dumbfounded! He looked at the dog and said, “I realize that you are a very intelligent dog and have some interesting abilities. However, I still can’t give you the job.” The dog jumped down and went to a copy of the sign. he put his paw on the part about being an Equal Opportunity Employer. “Yes,” the manager said, “but the sign also says that you have to be bilingual.”
The dog looked him straight in the face, and said, “Meow.”
If you’ve ever gone after a new job you know what it is like to have to communicate your strengths, your weaknesses and explain what characteristics describe you. It can be daunting…it can feel burdensome. But, what about the characteristics of a disciple of Jesus? The difference is, unlike a job search where we have to convince our potential employer we have those characteristics…in the Kingdom of God, none of us have the qualifications…but God graciously changes us…he fits us for the task…he gives us the character we need to be his disciples. So this morning...
A short time later, a dog trotted up to the window, saw the sign and went inside. He looked at the receptionist and wagged his tail, then walked over to the sign, looked at it and whined. Getting the idea, the receptionist got the office manager. The office manager looked at the dog and was surprised, to say the least. However, since the dog looked determined, he led him into the office.
Inside, the dog jumped up on the chair and stared at the manager, who said, “I can’t hire you. You have to be able to type.”
The dog jumped down, went to the typewriter and typed out a perfect letter. He took out the page and trotted over to the manager, gave it to him and then jumped back on the chair. The manager was stunned, but then reminded the dog, “the sign says you have to be good with a computer.”
The dog jumped down again and went to the computer. He then demonstrated his expertise with various programs, producing a sample spreadsheet and database which he presented to the manager.
By this time the manager was totally dumbfounded! He looked at the dog and said, “I realize that you are a very intelligent dog and have some interesting abilities. However, I still can’t give you the job.” The dog jumped down and went to a copy of the sign. he put his paw on the part about being an Equal Opportunity Employer. “Yes,” the manager said, “but the sign also says that you have to be bilingual.”
The dog looked him straight in the face, and said, “Meow.”
If you’ve ever gone after a new job you know what it is like to have to communicate your strengths, your weaknesses and explain what characteristics describe you. It can be daunting…it can feel burdensome. But, what about the characteristics of a disciple of Jesus? The difference is, unlike a job search where we have to convince our potential employer we have those characteristics…in the Kingdom of God, none of us have the qualifications…but God graciously changes us…he fits us for the task…he gives us the character we need to be his disciples. So this morning...

Intentional

Last year, Forbes magazine pulished an article called “How to Craft Your Life Vision.” In it, the author writes, “When you begin working on a life vision, you must first realize that your purpose can vary over time (different developmental periods or important life transitions). You need to consider both personal and professional aspects, as well as other important areas such as your values and ideals.” What this article represents is the human quest to find meaning and purpose. Humans, living in God’s world, though in large part surpressing the truth about him…inherently know that there is more to life than what they see. They recognize and realize the world, the universe is vast and they are small. Nevertheless, many people still desire to live with purpose... Yet, the sad and sobering reality is that apart from the grace of God these vision statements are nothing more than declarations of the idol of self.
But Christians are called to something entirely different. We are called to a vision beyond ourselves…even despite ourselves. We are called to die and live lives hidden in Christ. We understand, as believers, that our purpose in life is to bring glory to our God…to know him and make him known. So the Christian too wants to live life with purpose…but that purpose isn’t about making ourselves the best we can be…it is about making much of our Lord and fulfilling our calling to serve him in the world.
That means our lives have purpose…our daily coming and goings should have intention. As we look to Jesus we see intentional living. He did not waste one moment of his life…his life was lived with purpose.
Mark tells us in verse 30… Now this is likely the upper Galilee region…remember they were up north in Caesarea Phlippi, then on the Mt. of Transfiguration…then began working back south. But this little sentence speaks volumes. Consider what Mark is saying here...
Jesus spent the vast majority of his life growing up, living, working, worshipping in Galilee. This was home. This is where he began his ministry and did much of the teaching, healing, casting out of demons, miracles, etc that we read about in the gospels. But, in verse 30…they’re just a passin through. There’s a certain somber reality to this. His focus no longer is on Galilee. As we saw previously, Chapter 8 represents a shift in the gospel of Mark. Jesus begins to shift focus and as we come here to 9:30, we see his focus is set on what is ahead of him in Jerusalem. The time is drawing nearer.
There is a certain melancholy in the note that Jesus is now only passing through a place he once lived, for Galilee is no longer in his sights.
He did not want anyone to know. He is moving through the region with stealth…not wanting to draw further attention. His focus is no longer there…he needs to go to Jerusalem. His focus is on His father’s will…and he is continuing to teach his disciples about what is going to happen.
Now, let’s talk about verse 31. Jesus says...
This is the most concise of all his statements on the suffering of the cross and resurrection.
The ESV translates the beginning of this verse...”going to be delivered.” The NIV and NASB are similar in their translation. But, the NKJV and the NLT use the word betrayed. Now, this may seem like a minor thing, but the latter translation, I believe, misses the point of the passage. I understand why they did it…and it is an acceptable translation of the Greek…but I do not think it fits the context.
In looking at this passage this week…what we’re seeing here is another divine passive. Remember that term? A divine passive is a verb in the passive voice (so the subject is being acted upon, not doing the action themselves) but in a divine passive…the actor is not identified…the purpose of that is to help the reader understand it is God doing the action. So what we have here in verse 31 is a divine passive is conveying that God is handing over his Son to humanity to be killed. So, unfortunately the NKJV and NLT don’t do a good job of demonstrating that here. But, why is this important?
If it is a divine passive it conveys that God is handing over his Son to humanity.
Because it shows the intentionality behind Jesus’ actions. He is moving toward Jerusalem because it is God’s will for him to be delivered into the hands of men to be killed…and then to rise 3 days later.
Are you living life intentionally?
Are you structuring your life to live in accordance with the will of God?
Misconceptions about seeking the will of the Lord...
Not so much a chess game, more like free play within a fence.
Are you seeking to know him and making him known more and more?

Humble

Mark tells us in verse 33 that they came to Capernaum and entered the house. The house, a direct object there…this is a specific house, and it is likely it is Peter’s.
Jesus, walking with his disciples to the town, heard them discussing something. So, he asked them what it was about. Now, we see the disciples learning more about their Master. They know they were wrong to discuss who was the greatest. They were embarassed and even a bit fearful of admitting it. But, we see Jesus in his great wisdom knowing full-well what they were discussing.
So Jesus takes a seat…a posture in those days that a teacher would signal he was going to beign teaching. Much the opposite of us in the west where the teacher typically stands while the others sit.
Jesus teaches them in verse 35...
The statement is brief in Mark, but it is a culmination of much of what he taught his disciples. The way of the Kingdom of God is not the way of this world. It is backwards. Just read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and we understand that the Kingdom of God is radically different. We are called in that great sermon to live an entirely different way. This statement is no different. To be first is to be last. To be great is to serve. This is foolishness to the world.
History demonstates that for most of human history the way to greatness is by being strong, wealthy, attractive, and willing to crush those beneith you to get to where you want to be. Look at the kings, rulers, dictators, even presidents in our history. But, Jesus is teaching here that the Kingdom of God doesn’t work like that. In the Kingdom…service, meekness, humility are marks of greatness.
The disciples were missing the point. For them, being with Jesus was a status symbol. They felt priviledged…and they were…but instead of that driving them to humility…it inflated their pride. So much so that they sought to see who was the best among them…who would have the place of greatest honor with Jesus.
Rabbinic writings frequently comment on the seating order in Paradise, for example, and argue that the just would sit nearer to the throne of God than even the angels. So, this is not a surprising thought in their minds.
Jesus decides to use an object lesson to teach. He brings a child to himself and places the child in his arms. Now, let’s understand the 1st century here. This isn’t exactly like we depict it in our paintings and pictures of this teaching. Children, especially young children, were not treated in Jesus’ day like they are today. Our society loves kids…we love babies, we love little toddlers. But, in those days infant mortality was high…disease was a constant fear. The sad truth is, many babies and young children died. Therefore, they were not gushed over like they are today. Children didn’t become significant until they could contribute to their families by chores and work. Certainly parents cared for and raised their young ones, but society in general gave no concern to small children until they were a bit more grown up.
So, for Jesus to take this little one in his arms and says in verse 37...
This is a significant statement. Jesus is choosing to highlight a person of no significance, no dignity in society to be his spokesperson. Jesus is identifying with the least of the least.
At no point does the way of Jesus diverge more sharply from the way of the world than on the question of greatness.
Rabbinic writings frequently comment on the seating order in Paradise, for example, and argue that the just would sit nearer to the throne of God than even the angels
He is saying to his disciples....look, if you’re looking for greatness in the kingdom stop trying to get to the front of the line…the real place of greatness is to turn around and go to the very back of the line.
Which direction are you facing in line?
Christians aren’t immune from trying to get ahead even in the church, even in Xian circles by doing things the world’s way. So keep guard…watch your soul. Don’t seek to get ahead by the world’s standards. Don’t flaunt your knowledge…dont abuse your influence.

Kingdom-Focused

In verse 38 Mark tells us...
We haven’t heard much about John, but here he is speaking. I’m not sure why exactly he chooses this time to share this information. This disciples are given a heavy dose of reality after their foolishness of arguing with one another…now it is almost as though John is trying to demonstrate something he believes they did right. Sorry John, not quite.
Let’s make sure we understand John’s statement in context. This is painfully ironic. John is telling Jesus that they tried to stop someone from performing exorcisms in Jesus name because they were not following them…that is they were not part of Jesus’ normal crowd. The “us” in John’s statement is uncomfortable…he’s not saying “you” he is saying “us.” John’s understanding of his purpoe and role is woefully mismatched. Get this, one author rightly notes the absurdity of the Twelve’s telling the independent exorcist to stop doing what they could not do in 9:14–29. They’re stopping someone from sucessfully doing what they themselves couldn’t do at the foot of the mountain!
John is exposing here a dangerous mentality…and one we still deal with today…the “us vs them” mentality. This isn’t new, not even for God’s people. In it reads,
[24] So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. [25] Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.
[24] So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. [25] Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.
[26] Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. [27] And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” [28] And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” [29] But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” [30] And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp. (ESV)
Even then there was a sectarian mindset…if they’re not with us they must be wrong.
But, Jesus disapproves of their attempt to stop the men. What Jesus is essentially saying here is what he said in : You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered fromthornbushes, or figs from thistles? I believe Jesus is teaching for now and preparing them for the future. They will need to understand that only his followers will produce fruit consistent with the gospel. As we’ve seen elsewhere…there is a sharp distinction between those who truly know Christ and those who do not. Biblical Christianity is hard to fake if we take the time to look at the fruit.
Thus, works and wonders in Christ’s name are evidence of the call and commission of Christ, and fellow disciples should be cautioned against thinking ill of those who bear such “fruit” ().
The disciples here are demonstrating this us vs them mindset that is detrimental to the work of the Kingdom. He is teaching them to be careful about speaking poorly of those who are truly doing Christ’s work even if it doesn’t look exactly like how you do it.
There’s a huge lesson here for us. We are tempted to respond and behave in the very same way.
I think I’ve shared before one of the reasons I appreciated PBU. At times the non-demoninational stance drove me crazy but other times it helped open my eyes. I remember one class in particular…the docrtine of salvation. We had penecostals, AME, Reformed presbyterian, reformed baptist, and probably a couple that didn’t know what they were. That class was full of theological arguments, debate, talking past one another, yet time and time again the class ended with gospel unity. Why? Because we were serving the same Lord and we were indwelt by the same Spirit.
Make no mistake about it…one of us was right.
Some things will force us to divide…we should be dividing for unity. That sounds backwards!
Ultimately, we should give God thanks that the gospel is going forth.
Paul says in Philippians 1:12–18
The Advance of the Gospel
[12] I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, [13] so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. [14] And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
[15] Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. [16] The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. [17] The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. [18] What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
[15] Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. [16] The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. [17] The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. [18] What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
To Live Is Christ
Yes, and I will rejoice, (ESV)
What is sad here is that these opponents of Paul were trying to discredit Paul. For whatever reason they didn’t like him personally. But notice, their message was right. They weren’t preaching a false gospel, Paul could never rejoice in that…their gospel message was on point but their hearts were wrong.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying everyone that disagrees with us doctrinally has a heart problem. My point is much broader…no matter what the circumstances, we should rejoice when the gospel is being preached in its fulness…in truth.
The early Hebrews had questioned whether the Spirit of God rested on two men who did not belong to the seventy designated elders of Moses ().
Now, for those preaching a different gospel…that’s another story. Jesus is not giving carte blanche to preach and teach whatver you want so long as its in his name. The focus here is on truth…and truth will always be truth.
So if we differ over baptism, worship style, church membership, millennial views, etc. as long as the message of the gospel is the same…we should rejoice.
Our eyes must be lifted up high enough to see the Kingdom. Our home is not here, it is in God’s kingdom and when we are there we will all be rejoicing that every tribe, tongue, and nation will be joining in the heavenly song of praise to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Looking at the Whole Picture

A disciple of Jesus is dead to self and alive in Christ. When we see intentionality, humility, and Kingdom-focus…we see a disciple whose primary concern is serving their Lord by being a servant to others.
The disciple is intentional, meaning his thoughts, deeds, plans, finances, property…everything about him is about serving the Lord by serving others. He realizes nothing is his, not even his own life and he lives with the purpose of doing God’s will.
The disciple is humble. He recognizes in the words of the puritans that the way down is the way up, to be low is to be high, the broken heart is the healed heart, the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, the repenting soul is the victorious soul, to have nothing is to possess all, to bear the cross is to wear the crown, to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.
The disciple is Kingdom-focused. He sees more than just his tribe…he knows God is at work across the world bringing his people into the Kingdom.
But, if you’re like me you find youself at times anything but these things. But, take heart struggling Christian…look to your Savior as your strength.
Jesus has died for our apathy, selfish, divisive attitudes
Jesus’ life was characterized by intentionality, humility, service, and doing the will of God
Therefore, we are dead to our old way of life and our lives are hidden in Christ…we have abiity and power to grow in our intentionality, humility, service, and doing the will of God.
The path of discipleship is not easy. It is a war…but God has given us everything we need for the battle. Let us look to Christ, find his strength in us…his grace is sufficient.
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