ONEFAMILY Outreach

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ONEFamily Outreach exists to "Connect Kids to Community and Communities to Kids." Have you considered having a mission week for your church? This is one of my favorite "in-depth" ways of reaching out with the Great News of Jesus Christ. Activities can include:

  • Interactive and participative praise concerts for children, youth, and families;
  • Morning staff studies on Servant Leadership
  • Soup lunches for the community with a gospel-study focusing on our scriptural call to justice;
  • In-service for your volunteers or teachers on reaching today's youth and families with the vibrant, living, message of Jesus Christ;
  • Evening parent seminar on "Significant Conversations: The 21-conversations you want to have with your child before they leave home";
  • Local networking with other groups to talk about starting a "Character-Based Mentoring Program" for at-risk youth in your area;
  • Humorous and thought-provoking assembly for local schools (secular or religious).

ONEFamily Outreach is primarily supported by trainings, workshops, retreats and concerts.


Programs and Seminar Topics | Comments on Jerry's Newest Book | References | Contact Jerry


The Greatest and The Least

Mark 9:30-37

[Mk 9:30] From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it. [31] For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” [32] But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.

[33] They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” [34] But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. [35] Sitting down, He called the twelve and *said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” [36] Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, [37] “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” (NAS)

Mark 9:30 

[Mk 9:30] From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it.

He did not want anyone to know about it.

Thus ends the public ministry of Jesus Christ.  From this point on Jesus focuses his efforts on:

·         Intensely training his disciples to become leaders of what would become a persecuted but powerful body of focused believers; the church;

·         Moving from the preaching phase of his life to the sacrificial phase of his death.

The presence of Jesus, his trust in God and finally, his confidence in the power of the Holy Spirt to empower the people around him are astounding and exemplary to any who would desire to be a Christian leader.

1.        He was intense about his mission;

Nothing would distract him and everything he did, both publicly and privately, modeled the character of God.

2.        He was aware of his worldly temporality;

Jesus was constantly aware that his earthly life was temporary and it fueled his drive to be ever-available to the lost and vulnerable.

3.        He was constantly preparing his followers to go on without him.

We think we have a problem with delegation.  Imagine our Lord’s predicament.  Most of us deceptively believe that we cannot pass our incredible responsibilities on to someone else because, “No one can do my work as well as I.”  The only living man who could truly make that statement was Jesus and yet he was confident the church would continue without his physical presence. That confidence was not so much in the men around him as in the Holy Spirit’s ability to work through our weaknesses. 

Jesus quite literally gave the church away to the likes of us.  He gave us the task of reaching a lost world with the Good News that God has not abandoned us.  Jesus knew that, although we are imperfect, God’s plan is perfect.  One could faithfully say that the bible is the history of God’s perfection worked out through man’s imperfection:

Isaiah 52:7

[Isa 52:7] How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Mark 9:31-32

 [31] For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” [32] But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him. (NAS)

They will kill Him

The disciples must have been very cagey.  All of Israel seems after Jesus and, by all worldly appearances, Jesus seems exiled to the north. It appears as though he is fleeing to the region of modern day Lebanon for safety.  Yet in retrospect, we know that Jesus was buying more time to train his beloved disciples.  He moved them beyond their national borders (and their national prejudices) into forbidden, unclean lands.  Then he took them into hiding to strengthen one last time before resolutely turning his own face towards Jerusalem and his final sacrifice.

Jesus had to prepare the twelve for his death, a death that would shock and scatter them even after they had been forewarned.  He begins this training with intensity in Chapter 8:

Mark 8:31

[Mk 8:31] And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. (NAS)

Our Lord then continues that theme here in Chapter 9:

Mark 9:31b

“The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him...” (NAS)

Sometimes we think we can’t be pushed any harder or stretched anymore.  Admittedly, there are some Christians that think they shouldn’t be pushed at all.  Yet, look at these twelve men, known only for their normalcy prior to their call from Jesus.  Look how hard Jesus pushed them; beyond their livelihood, out of their homes, at odds with their faith and even their own families.  Jesus pushed until they reached a point where they had nothing else and no one else.  Until the only words they had left were; “Lord, to whom shall we go?” [John 6:68b]

It is critical to our growth that we are pushed and stretched beyond our comfortable surroundings.  We don’t like being pushed that hard; in fact we often reject it.  We don’t want to visit the sick, the alien, the incarcerated, or the poor.  Yet, to reach heaven, Jesus says that this is exactly what we must do [Mt 25:41-44].  If we don’t let go of the comforts of this world we will be very uncomfortable in the next, for it will be filled with the very people that this world rejects [Luke 16:19-31].

So Jesus pushed hard, but it hardened his follower’s resiliency without breaking their spirits.  Later, they would need every ounce of that courage to walk the road ahead of them.

We must also be pushed in the short run to persevere in the long run.  Jesus knew this and pushed against the resistance of his followers.  If we are close to Jesus, we too will find ourselves pushed.  We will find ourselves struggling with resistance and fear.  We will find ourselves often stretched beyond capacity.

Over time I have begun to realize that I am not so much sure of myself (increasingly comfortable in familiar surroundings), as much as I am sure he is sending me (increasingly confident of God’s presence in alien places).  This is how the Holy Spirit works inside of us.  We are sent into uncomfortable situations, not so much with prepared speeches and biblical diatribes, as with an ever-deepening dependency on the Holy Spirit.  We learn not so much to be “prepared for everything” as to be “faithful in everything”; we learn to lean heavily on the Holy Spirit and not upon ourselves.

Luke 12:12

[12] “For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (NAS)

“He will rise three days later.”

The disciples “did not understand” this statement.  How could they?  They had no context for such a miracle.  The sayings of Jesus had become increasingly difficult for them since Jesus publicly declared; “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him [John 6:56].”

Now, the Lord began to speak frequently about his death.  He had stoically turned his face to Jerusalem, the rancid den of the High Priests, Herod Antipas, and Rome’s political pawn, Pontius Pilate.  There, Jesus and the twelve were wanted men and the religious authorities made no secret of their passionate hatred of Jesus.  It is not hard to imagine their confusion and their fear.  They were totally invested in Jesus, they had no hope left but him, and yet his statements seemed increasingly erratic.

The truth is, the closer we get to Jesus the more erratic our lives may also appear to those of this world.  Devotion to the poor, a love of the vulnerable, a constant emptying of self to others, how else could our world view this?  The greatest of our world’s testimonies are found among those lives that confounded this world.  Paul confounded the Pharisees (and the Jewish Christians), Francis confounded both family and church, through her simplicity and service to the poor, Mother Theresa confronted the indignity of a consumerist world where some people are just “thrown away.”

So, do our lives confound the “worldly” around us?  Do our churches confound the sensibilities of systemic poverty and violence around us?  Do people look at us and think; “Are they nuts?”

Jesus offers a glimpse of hope to the dazed men and women around him.  Yet, his definition of hope is their definition of confusion?  Does our hope lie in a promise this world cannot understand?  Can we fearlessly let go of the selfishness of this world for the glory of the next?

It is this world that is confused and our priorities that are backward.  We value things over people and self over community.  Jesus gives us a taste of the kingdom to come and the disciples witnessed it firsthand. 

How easily does the taste of Christ find its way into our hearts?  It is not an easy message to swallow to those accustomed to the manna of this world: “Am I nurtured by the things of this world or the living bread?”

As the disciples faced following Jesus into Jerusalem, they had to ask this question. “Is there anything I would not abandon in order to stay by my Lord’s side?” We too, have to ask the very same question.

Mark 9:33-34

[33] They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” [34] But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. (NAS)

“What were you discussing?”

Busted!

While Jesus was talking about his sacrificial death, the last act of the suffering servant, the disciples were discussing distribution of shares at the next stockholders meeting.  Despite all of Jesus’ stern warnings, the disciples still interpreted the Lord’s Messianic claim with an eye towards how it would personally benefit them. They still believed that an army of angels was going to ride with them into Jerusalem and perhaps on to Rome itself.  It wasn’t within their context, their frame of reference that Jesus would descend in absolute isolation from God to pay the price of our sin.  Yet, sin demands death and it was Jesus’ eternal intent to pay that bill.

Jesus gave them a glimpse of the promise that would be obtainable after the debt had been paid, but the disciples seemed to have jump-frogged over sacrifice and into salvation.  Should that surprise us in our credit card generation?  Forget the labors of the week; let’s just jump straight to the “thank God it’s Friday” bash. The disciples were asking, “which of us gets to rule over the others?”  That was the question on everyone’s mind.

Jesus knew their hearts—and here’s the kicker—he still loved them.  He had to give them a comeuppance, but he still loved them.

The question they asked was, “who is the greatest?”  The question they should have asked was, “who is going to pick up the tab?”

Mark 9:35-37

[35] Sitting down, He called the twelve and *said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” [36] Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, [37] “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” (NAS)

Taking a child...

Even before we examine Christ’s radical upside-down statement, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all,” we must examine these three words; “Taking a child...”

Why is that action so important?  Because these three words teach us all about Jesus and Jesus teaches us all about God.

Jesus didn’t have to set up a “photo-op,” chasing down a child and wresting it from some passer-by, nor was there any struggle to hold the child in his lap once he reached for him or her.  A child was a touch away from Jesus; a child came gleefully onto his lap and there felt as warm and protected as a kitten balled in her mother’s fur.  Who is this God of ours that his very son would be found among children who felt so close to Jesus that his touch would be familial?

Our God passionately loves his creation.  His love pours out like a waterfall plunging unquestionably over the abyss.  At the core of that love is not the fittest, not the greatest, but the weakest, the most vulnerable.  The fact that God’s son, the Prince of the Universe, makes this statement with an anonymous child in his lap is evidence for where our Lord’s heart resides.  The child is anonymous to history but not to Jesus.  The symbolism of this act will always stand as one of the greatest indications of God’s true character. Nestled in the lap of salvation, wrapped in the arms of infinite love, how can we ever doubt God’s intent to love his people back to wholeness?

If Christ were to speak about becoming a servant of the least of these from behind the walls of academia or within the deep confines of the temple—where no children were even allowed—then that would have been no more than an exercise in hypocrisy.  But our God sets children in his lap!

What kind of a person do children love?  That is the kind of person that Jesus was and that is the kind of person he called “the greatest.”  That is the kind of person who resembles our God.

What kind of character must one foster to be beloved by the littlest one’s?  What kind of traits are we to engender to become like Jesus?  Should we strive to become smarter, richer, tougher, and more practical?  Or should we instead strive to be ever more compassionate, available, vulnerable and extravagant in love?  To become the greatest, we must become the one in whom the least little child would find comfort and love.

“Last of all and servant of all.”

The disciples wanted power in the new order.  They sought a place of standing, to be first among the first.  They felt worthy and deserving, after all, hadn’t they walked around with Jesus for a couple of years?  Imagine their consternation when instead of granting them kingdoms and titles, Jesus sets a child on his lap and tells them that the child is closer to heaven than they are.

This repartee forces us to ask ourselves; “What reward do we seek for loving Jesus?”

Are we like the twelve, seeking position, possessions, or popularity?  Do we seek acknowledgment or popular standing?  Are we seeking a golden throne in a city of diamond streets?

What if the greatest reward we will receive is simply to be loved back when we love others?  What if heaven is “love puree”; the sum total of all that we have given in this life “pressed down, shaken together, running over and poured back into our laps?”

Luke 6:38

[38] “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (NAS)

What if heaven is a place where we “get what we have given?”  What if it is a place where we are forgiven as we forgave and or reward for all of our life’s endeavors is the mercy and compassion we have offered to others?

Luke 6:36-37

[36] “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. [37] “And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (NAS)

What if I am welcomed into heaven by Jesus in the form of those I have treated with compassion, mercy, forgiveness and extravagant love?  How large would that crowd be?  The thought challenges me, it makes me realize how far I have to go and how “off-target” (the Greek term for sin) my aspirations can become.

The action of taking a child into his lap and proclaiming him “closest to God” and the words, “if anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all,” all of this should shake us to our fundamentals just as it would have shaken the Apostles.  Suddenly, all the argument about “being the greatest” should have shifted to; “No, you can be the greatest, I insist.”

Let’s take a closer look at the words the Holy Spirit causes Mark to write:

·         If anyone wants to be first [GSN4413 protos], he shall be last of all and servant of all.”

Desiring to be first [GSN4413 protos], means to want to be the chief, the most important man, the “prototype” or even “the leading character.”

·         If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last [GSN2078 eschatos] of all and servant of all.”

This word is used for the last man in line, the last man in standing or the most remote village in the kingdom.

·         If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant [GSN1249 diakonos] of all.”

This term was translated in the King James Version into deacon (three times), but it was also used for minister (seven times), but more than anything else it was translated as servant (ten times) or servants (nine times).

So what is the picture that Christ paints?  Let’s try a rough translation: “If you want to be the leading man in God’s kingdom—if you want to be chief or the most important—then you need to be the one that goes to the most remote village of the kingdom and stand behind the most forgotten person. You must make sure that person gets to Christ even before you.”

The type of attitude we see displayed here is of one who hears the trumpet sounding and remembers suddenly that there is a child who can’t run fast enough or an old woman who won’t make it to the gate in time.  Then, he runs, with all of his might, to carry that one person to the gate and pushes them in before they slam shut.  That is exactly what the Lord did for us.  That is exactly what heaven is!

Luke 15:4-7

[4] “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? [5] “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. [6] “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ [7] “I tell you that in the same way, there will be {more} joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (NAS)

“Lord, where is that alleyway today?  Where is that one person who needs to be carried?  Give me the courage to find them, Lord.”

“Whoever receives…”

“To receive [GSN1209 dechomai];” the term is one of ultimate hospitality.  It is used over and over again in the New Testament (sixty-three times) and almost always in the context of this message; “When we take in the most vulnerable; we are taking in Jesus himself.”

It is for this value of servant humility and compassionate hospitality that the Christ-follower and the community of Christ should be most renown.  We should be known not for how “put-together” we are, but for how broken we have become for the commonly rejected and neglected.  God doesn’t celebrate our creeds, our edifices, our oratories, or our music.  God celebrates our hospitality for the least little ones.

“Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me [v 37].”

Quite simply, if our creeds, edifices, oratories, and music do not lead us to love the least of these with gracious compassion, then they are a distraction and not worthy of the effort that goes into them.  They are “dust.”

Receive the lost, for in doing so we receive Christ and in receiving Christ, we receive God.  There is our heavenly reward, the blessing to be the most to the least, to make the most forgotten the absolute greatest in our lives. 

The incomparable blessing of heaven is the honor of carrying the lost—the ones who won’t make it alone—into the waiting arms of the Jesus and to hear him say the words, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master [Mt. 25:21 NASB].

Copyright Notice

Copyright © 2005 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.  This study may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Jerry Goebel: 2005 © http://onefamilyoutreach.com.

Scripture taken from God’s Word to the Nations Bible Society original work copyright © 1995.

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