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Ben Fleming: Looking For Loop Holes, Mark 9:38-10:45

April 11, 2022

Audio Recording

Mark highlights the growing unrest with the teaching and ministry of Jesus. On one hand his popularity grows and on the other he addresses controversial subjects. Confessing who Jesus is (part 4) does not always mean you will do what he says. The question his disciples must confront is will they follow him when things get hard or even confusing?

Mark: The Gospel of Curiosity
Ben Fleming: Looking For Loop Holes, Mark 9:38-10:45

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us

00:06 Morning, everybody. My name's Ben Fleming, one of the senior pastors here at Westside. Welcome to those of you who are online. And of course, welcome to spring. The masters are on. Baseball has begun in its 36 degrees outside. This is to ride on time. But what I appreciated about the central Oregonian is that we just start doing the central Oregon stuff and walk past the closed streets to go ahead and hike the trails that we wanna walk anyway, ride the bikes, run by the river trail. It's all happening. It's as if the temperature doesn't even exist. That's what makes us central Oregon.

00:42 somebody owes me money for the commercial. I just did. Okay. We're gonna be in mark chapter nine, as we continue our journey all the way through the book of mark, leading up to, and passing the death and the resurrection of Jesus. And this is gonna finish, with the poem Sunday, but really we're talking about more than just the entrance of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. We're talking about what is it like and how difficult is it to follow Jesus? And so last week, if you remember, we had the story of Peter receiving this incredible blessing from Jesus, where Jesus says on this rock, Peter, you're the rock I'm gonna build my church and Peter, wow, that's amazing. Then Jesus says I'm gonna die soon. And then I'm gonna come back three days later because that's what I'm called to do. As the Messiah.

01:29 Peter says, that sounds terrible. And Jesus says, Peter, quit acting like Satan. Don't do that. It's really quick conversation. I'm I don't know if it actually happened that fast, but it's a little jarring when you're reading scripture on this rock of my church, Satan and it's it's rough, but Jesus is starting to, to experience this tension with the disciples. As he's trying to tell them practically what he's gonna do. And this is where I feel bad for the disciples, right? A lot of times we read the scripture, we go, man, those silly disciples, they just don't totally get it. Well, Jesus spent so much of his men history talking in parables and stories and prophecies and poetry. And what sometimes feels like riles, where he would say a story and the disciples would go, whoa. Or he would say something like I have food, which none of you know about. And they would go, did he pack lunch?

02:24 And Jesus is like, no, not that kind of food you guys. And now Jesus is like, so I'm gonna go and I'm gonna die. And I'm gonna come back three days later and the disciples are like, oh, okay, we're gonna figure this one out. Jesus. And he's like, no, for real this time, this is it. They're like, ah, no, we're going to our book club right now. We're gonna sort the us out. We're gonna have an answer for you. And he's trying to tell them the truth of this is how it's gonna happen. It just so blows the mind of somebody who would've grown up in the Jewish tradition that the Messiah would essentially come up to the biggest, you know, the biggest game or maybe the best player, coming up to the biggest game and would actually in their mind sit one out or play with a hand tied behind his back that he would go and at this moment would die as just so beyond their wildest imagination.

03:13 So they're seeking out another answer and really, as on a whole, as Jesus, trying to teach them what it's going to mean to follow after him, especially in the days that are coming, they are looking for loophole through some of these difficult words that Jesus is expressing to them. It's kinda like my kids. When I talk about how the, I don't wanna make three dinners, I'm not gonna make you dinner at four 30 and have you eat half of it and then make you another dinner at five and have you eat a quarter of it and then make you another dinner right before bed. Because now when you're tired, instead of going to bed, you're saying you're hungry. I'm not gonna participate in a stupid charade anymore. you know, my, my wife, ever since she's a nurse, since the pandemic started taking a job outta town.

03:58 So she's gone a couple days a week. And so me and my kids have these talks a lot where I'm like, look at me, this is how dinner's gonna go. not three, not two but one dinner. And I'm, I'm assuming this is exactly how Jesus felt. Probably not. And, and I go, you hear me? That's how many times you could do it. Joel goes, yes, son, how about snacks? How do you feel about snacks? Not cooking snacks and he's trying to communicate this point to them, but they continue to look for these loopholes. And it begs the question that when God ask us something, I wonder how good we are at an open we are at to listening. Are we prepared to have our earlier ways of understanding broken apart so that a new way of understanding can move to the forefront? This isn't about understanding balance.

04:57 I want you to understand balance is not a fruit of the spirit. Hearing. Both sides in every situation is not a fruit of the spirit. I understand the taking in information and listening to conversation, but there is a way that Jesus is asking us to pursue and follow after that is as direct as possible to his heart. It can be difficult to and understand, but it's valuable that we understand that we're trying to follow the way of Jesus, not just trying to take in everybody's feelings and viewpoints. Now the answer might be no to how open we are to listening. If we're still concerned in our faith with our own status in our life, sometimes we ask, well, Jesus, what's in this for me. Can I get some prestige through this? And this is evidence in a story that we're not gonna read off the screen, but it starts when Jesus and the disciples are walking and journeying like they often do.

05:55 And then they finally stop. And Jesus says, Hey, I realize you guys are fighting back there. What were you fighting about? This is pretty shortly after he says, I'm gonna go and I'm gonna die. And I'm gonna rise again. This miracle's gonna happen. And they said, well, we're fighting over. Who's the best of us who you think is the best. And Jesus just like man. And he grabs a, a child that's nearby and embraces the child. And he says, you understand this, you wanna be the best. This is evidence of the best. And I've even preached messages before. And I think we're a little off. And we talk about the innocence or the joy that comes from being a child. Most smarter people than me agree that Jesus is actually making a comment on status children because of their extremely high death rate. And the fact that they're just not as useful as, as kids of a certain age, right?

06:47 Especially once they start hitting 13 or mature to a certain point, there's no value in this culture to children, except for the parents of that children, but assign value to them. They have no step at us. They have no weight to move around. And while the disciples bicker about status, Jesus pulls in somebody into the conversation that says they have none of this. They don't belong to a class. They are not important outside of the father and the mother's love for them. So should your walk and your faith be, this is what it's like to, to follow after me. If you really wanna follow and see what it's like, then you will be prepared to lose your status.

07:29 So here's a few other ways that the, the disciples try to make themselves special and some other people too, by finding loopholes. This is in mark chapter nine and says in verse 38 teachers said, John, we saw someone driving out demons in your name. We told him to stop because he wasn't. One of us don't stop him. Jesus said for no one who does a miracle in my name, can the next moment say anything bad about me for whoever's not against us is for us. Truly. I tell you anyone who gives you a cup water in my name, because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. If anyone causes one of these little ones, again, he talks about children in, in reference to, to little of faith. They're small of fake children of faith. Those who believe in me to stumble, it'd be better for them. If a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the seat,

08:18 Jesus assumes here that Israel's taking sides as to whether his mission is from God. John wants to restrict working on this to the disciples in Jesus. They have a tradition. They have a way that John is insistent. They stick to now this exposes something that's happening in the church at that moment, as the church is kind of being birthed from this small group, even before Jesus' death. But it is also evidence of something in how we operate in the church today. I would wager a guess that your experience in your mind, whether especially if it's been positive has lent itself to this is the best way for a church to function or a Christian faith tradition to function. Now I'm gonna tell you a story. It's super embarrassing for me. because it wasn't that long ago that I felt this way. but I grew up in a, in a Pentecostal Protestant home where, you know, it looked a lot like this and except much smaller and very much out in the country.

09:17 It didn't look anything like this. and somewhere along the way, I don't think I was directly taught anything like this. I kind of came up with this idea that Catholics were really bad, were terrible people, their tradition, everything was just purely manipulative and all this, you know, did I gather that because of evidence that I had collected because of people that I had talked to, that I have contact with a lot of people at the Catholic tradition. No, none. I had no information. I decided to hate a large group of people based on no information. This just sound familiar to anybody. Okay. There's a subtext here that I want to be the text. Okay. Anyway,

10:03 And I remember it wasn't that long ago. You guys it's really sad. like six years ago, my wife and I went and visited Ireland. And one of the things my wife wanted to do was visit any church that we went by. That was old. She wanted to go check it out. And I was like, these aren't, I don't think these are like museums. Like I don't, you just pop in and you do. They're always open, right? These old Catholic churches are always open. You pop in. And, and I would, my wife would love to go around and look at the architecture and all the artistry. And, I would walk in the door and I would move to the left or right. Wherever the closest chair was, I would sit and I would wait for her to be done. not cuz I was angry or anything like that.

10:43 But cuz I always felt like, especially if anybody else was in the room that I was imposing on something and what this led to me doing was probably 30 times walking into a church where maybe one person was or three or four people were and I would walk, watch them go about what was most often prayer. And I can't tell you how many individual people that, that look like parents. Sometimes young people, sometimes grandparents, remember watching this woman go up and light a candle and sit down in the pew and pray without moving for it, least 25 minutes, which as long as I was there and I had this moment, you guys, I know it's gonna sound silly to you guys, to many of you cuz you're more mature than I am where I was like the presence of God might be more present here than in any other moment in my life.

11:34 I'm not praying, but I'm just witnessing. So that's a part of this tradition. The richness of this moment is something that, that would've been mocked with. Some of the people in my tradition, all that's to say, sometimes we believe that because of the tradition that we hold, that we have the epitome, the essence of who Christ is. And I wanna tell you if we approach our faith humbly that there are some people out there that can teach us some things that there are some, and maybe there are more satisfying methods or, or things that will show us things more than others. But I'm telling you, there is something to walking into this faith, the experience and all the thousands, by the way, these, these crazy amount of years where we've been functioning as a Christian society and the church, there's something to these traditions and these things that I was unwilling to participate in.

12:27 And God showed me his presence in a powerful way through them. I wonder if we wouldn't appreciate and approach humbly the church tradition that we might not experience God in a fresh new way, mark chapter 10, it goes on, says that Jesus started on his way. And a man ran up to him, fell on his knees before I'm good teacher. He asked what must I do to inherit eternal life? Why do you call me good? Jesus answered. No one is good. Except God, you know the commandments, you shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not defraud your honor and mother, and you shall not defraud honor. Your father or mother Jesus or teacher. He declared all these I've kept since I was a boy and Jesus looked at him and loved him.

13:13 One thing you lack, he said, go, those, sell everything. You have give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. And then come follow me at this man's face felt. And he went away sad because he had great wealth. And Jesus looked around, said to his disciples how hard it is for the rich to enter into the kingdom of God and the are amazed at his words, but I'm not completely sure they heard him all the way. So Jesus says again, children, how hard is it to enter into the kingdom of God? It's easier for a came to go through than I have a needle than for the rich to enter into the kingdom of God. The disciples are even more amazed and said to each other who then can be save. And Jesus looked at them and said with this with man, this is impossible with God.

14:01 All things are possible. And then Peter spoke up, we've left everything to follow you. He said, just making sure that he's on the right side of this discussion. Truly. I tell you, Jesus replied, no one has ever left home or brothers or sin or mother or father or children or fields for me. And the gospel will receive, will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present, age homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields, along with persecutions Jesus nature to not leave that one out and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be asked. And the last first and they were on their way up to Jerusalem with Jesus leading the way. And the disciples were astonished while those who were followed were afraid. And again, he took the 12 aside. He told them what was going to happen to him were going to Jerusalem.

14:50 He said, the son and man will be delivered over to the chief priest, the teachers of the law. And they will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit on him and flog him and kill him. Three days later, he will rise. So this is the story familiar to many of you, if not of the rich young ruler comes, wants to be a follower of Jesus, but is unwilling to sacrifice the thing that Jesus asks him for. I love how Jesus curates the 10 commandments for him, by the way, tell him to keep the commandments. And then he says six through nine adultery, theft and perjury. And then he jumps back to five honoring his parents, but skips one through four, listen to these, put God first, no idols. Don't take the Lord's name in vain, the Sabbath and number 10 covetousness.

15:45 He identifies quickly what might prevent this young man from having a soft and humble heart to follow Jesus. Now, is this a commentary on your amount of money, keeping you and preventing you from following Jesus? That's not it, but it is a commentary about anything in this world that can prevent us from having this kind of humble and soft heart will prevent us from following Jesus. Then riches, especially a, our culture and our society, right? There's a certain amount of umph that comes along with riches and even more so in this culture because this rich man isn't just rich. He's not just a good capitalist. He's not just someone that's figured out how to, to work the market. He's someone that in the minds of these Jewish disciples that are following after Jesus, someone who has been intentionally blessed by God with all that he has, he's more important than the others, which is why when Jesus says, man, it's so hard for rich people to follow after me.

16:47 They're like, well, who can do it then? Cause he's important. Way more important than me. Look at all that God already done for him. And you're telling me that it's actually harder than what are we going to do? But of course the idea with Jesus is, is not that these symbols of status, right? Or we're trying to separate ourselves and, and we're the right church and they're the wrong church or I'm the rich person. And they're the lesser than all these loopholes that we're trying to come up with in order to, to ourselves in an important place, in the presence of Christ. It's just not the point. He really, he reiterates again.

17:28 And the reason riches can be so difficult is because riches tell us that all the moves that we have made and all the success that we have garnered is because of our own brilliance and, and hard work and genius. And all of a sudden in a world where all of the things we receive are because of all of our greatness, we become the God of that world. Jesus swiftly identifies what would hold this young man back from following him. He calls him out on it. He sees that wealth, a surefire indication that God has blessed him has actually done nothing to soften his harder mind. So Jesus extends the opportunity and the ruler turns away. There's nowhere to hide from the uncompromising yet cheerful, invitation of Jesus to come and to follow me.

18:25 And this is the last scripture we're gonna read together, says in mark 10, then James and John, the sons of Zeb came to him teacher. They said, we want you to do for us, whatever we ask what a terrible start to a conversation. Jesus, come here real quick. Before we say anything, say yes and Jesus responds. Like he said, well, what do you want me to do for you? They replied, let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left and glory, Jesus responds. You don't know what you're asking. It's another thing I say to my kids. We wanna stay up all night. You don't know what you're asking. Jesus said, can you drink the cup? I drink or be baptized of the baptism I'm baptized with we can they answer? Jesus said to them, you will drink the cup.

19:22 I drink, be baptized with the baptism. I am baptized with, say that three times fast, but to sit at my right hand or my left is not for me to grant is not a thing. These places belong to those whom they've been prepared. And when the heard about this, they became indignant with James and John Jesus called them together and said, you know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles, lorded over them, their high officials, exercise authority over them. Not so with you instead, whoever wants to become great among you must become your servant. Whoever wants to first must be slave of all for even the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many, the upside down topsy turvy nature of the gospel that the first will be last. And the last will be first. I wanna pinpoint real quick as we begin to close and then verse 38, when Jesus says you don't know what you're asking. I wonder if sometimes in our times of worship and prayer, that if we couldn't hear the definitive English speaking voice of Jesus, he might not say the same thing to us. I don't think you know what you're asking

20:39 And it can be easy right? In the pews and with the melodies and the, the songs, the band going, you sing this song called oceans that I think the band got tired of after a while. Maybe you did too, but it would say you call me out on the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail there. I find you in the mystery oceans deep, my faith will stand. I'll call upon your name and keep my eyes above the wave. We all see used to sing, break my heart for what breaks yours. Every I have for your kingdom's cause.

21:13 And I think about singing those words right now. And the times that I've said it, the times I've said it without paying attention, the times I've said it without actually considering what I'm saying, the idea that break my heart for what breaks, the heart of Jesus that will wreck your, our life forever. Because what Jesus is trying to tell them right now in this moment is he's saying, look, I love that you're following me. I hope you continue to follow me. I wanna continue teaching you, but this, whole thing, this whole thing of status and these loopholes that you're trying to go through so that you don't have to do the things that is necessary in order to follow me. I got news for you. This following me is gonna cost you something. It's gonna change your money status. It's gonna change what you think is important.

22:04 It's gonna create opportunities for sacrifice that you could just walk past. If you weren't following me, it's gonna ask you to walk humbly into conversations that you don't understand. It's gonna ask you to talk to people and not just walk past them or spit on them or forget about them. It's gonna require you to understand the people in your life, in your community, that everyone else ignores, because this costs something you don't wanna get involved in convers about justice and race in the world. We are called to these conversations to walk into them, humbly with the grace of Jesus and understanding that we don't always know everything. We're called to think about our community and the people that are the most broken in it. And to think about how our finance can change that and how our church can change that. We're called to think about the orphans, the people that are left behind. There's no loophole for this man. Sometimes I think the church walks into these conversations with Jesus. Like the people that walk into the gym three weeks before summer and say, I'd love a six pack. You ever talk to a trainer like that? Yeah. I got three weeks high school reunion. If I could be fit by then, what's the shortcut a trainer will go. There is none.

23:33 The short ways, the long way. It's a lot of hard work and it's dedication and it's showing up day after day. And sometimes it's painful and sometimes it's gratifying, but it's the continual walk, walk, walk, walk. And if we walk it patiently and humbly with understanding, I promise you that there is this transformation that happens in the middle of this sacrifice. That is what you're really after in this life with Jesus. It's not always gonna feel like it, but you can gonna want this transformation. You're gonna want the transformation of your city and your community. I'm not saying we're all gonna agree on everything at every moment. But the process of walking through things patiently and carefully and humbly together is gonna lead to this transformational thing in west side and in central Oregon that we don't wanna miss. Now it's worth it. Sorry. I'm losing my voice, but there's no service after this. So my kids will be happy that I can't holler at 'em this afternoon. Masters is on you be quiet. Speaker 4


24:42 We don't always know what we're asking. And here's a good example. Oh, heartbreaking, powerful, beautiful example. Many of you heard of mother Teresa. I've only discovered this over the last couple years. So some of you might be ahead of me. they published a lot of the letters that mother Theresa wrote in a book called come be my light and this woman who's so famous for her caring of orphan children. I dedicating her life to this cause she won a Nobel peace prize. She had this incredible speech where she talked about the greatness and the glory of God. Now he's always been there. And what he is doing among these children is the ultimate life changing thing. And then they discovered a letter that was written three months after she said that speech to Reverend Michael Vander, Pete. And she says this. She says, Jesus has a very special love for you. She said to Vander Pete. But as for me, the silence and the emptiness that I feel is so great that I look, I don't see. I listen and I can't hear my tongue moves in prayer, but it doesn't speak. I want you to pray for me that I let God have a free hand. And over the course of these letters, you discover that since mother Teresa felt this calling it's been nearly 50 years, she would say, since she felt the presence or heard the voice of God,

26:17 A woman, so incredible. So dedicated felt so called. All of a sudden is feeling this emptiness that I would imagine the disciples felt with an incredible depth for the three days, following the death of Jesus Christ, that there are moments it's sounds like many, many, many moments for mother there where we look up and we say in the middle of this walk with, are you even there anymore? Do you care? And the disciples are at this moment, walking after Jesus going, can I be number one and him be number two. And sometimes this is what we do. And if I can have Jesus create this availability for me and status, and if I could just get to here and I'll give God all the glory, for sure. And there are people, there are moments in this life and some of you are experiencing this. You identify with mother Teresa. You've been walking in this Christian faith. You've been a good soldier. You've been faithful. You've been incredible. And you're saying, I can't hear anything.

27:25 Why am I walking? And I wanna remind you again, the reason that we continue to walk and we believe in faith, even sometimes when we don't hear is because there is this transformation that is happening to us. It's for the beauty and the glory of God that we might be everything that he has called us to be. Now, the difficulty of, of it is this in our day and age, Anna Leke is an addiction psychiatrist. She appeared on that documentary, social dilemma that was on Netflix. many, maybe many of you have seen. She describes our current lifestyle as drug ified, that everything are shopping our consumerism as a whole, our shopping, our, our entertainment, our lifestyles are drugged in that. Everything around us knows exactly when we need another hit of something we gotta buy again. We gotta be entertained again. No empty spaces, no silence. We gotta go, go, go, go, go. And everything knows. It's perfectly marketed and suited so that we will continue to try to find that next hit. And that next high, I gotta tell you, it's not gonna feel that way with Jesus.

28:46 I used to subscribe to this idea of faith. That man, right, when I felt like I was at my lowest Jesus came through and everything was fine. And that's happened sometimes. But I would say maybe be even more regularly, I've hit my lowest than I discovered that I wasn't at the bottom yet. It got lower and darker. And then sometimes there was that still small voice. There was a praying mother in a Catholic church in Ireland. There was the presence of God. Again, there's an ultimate transformation that we're looking after, but if you expect success in following after Jesus to look anything like feeling good or success in our day and age, I am telling you, you will be incredibly disappointed.

29:33 Silence happens along with the voice of God desperation and wondering happens along with surety and peace. It's all part of following Jesus. It's all worth it. And so the disciples continue to follow Jesus in their confusion. Many end doubt that he will actually be crucified even as they walk through the gates of Jerusalem. and especially as the crowds begin to sing Hosanna Hosanna in the highest to the Messiah that they've been following. I'm sure that they weren't certain that the same crowd would be crucifying him just days later. Let's pray, father God, we're grateful for this community. What I pray, we would have a desire for that transformation that we would continue to walk. And knowing that that transformation sometimes isn't happening in this perfectly measurable way. It's just happening to us around us. So Lord, we choose to walk faithfully with you. We're gonna keep asking questions, but Lord, I pray that, that you don't know what you're asking phrase would be stuck in our hearts and souls a little bit that as we pray this week, we would ask ourselves and ask you, do we know what we're asking? God, cause I wanna know. I wanna feel it. I wanna walk after you. And we give you our hearts, our souls, this church, this city in Jesus name. Amen.