Pastor Simek The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville 9/23/18 “Questions and Answers” Sermon Text: Mark 9:30-37
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
So, I understand that I’m weird. I know that I am a kind of a nerd. I get that not everyone would consider spending hours reading the Bible and talking theology a good time, and that’s fine. But, can we at least agree that going on a road trip with Jesus as he opens up the Scriptures and teaches us how it all points to his death and resurrection would be an incredible opportunity? Or maybe just an evening or over the course of dinner to have Jesus explain to you how his death and resurrection is for your salvation and delivers you from eternal death into eternal life would be pretty awesome. And if you had the chance, if you were to go on a road trip with Jesus or have him over for the evening or for dinner, what questions would you ask him? Would they be intricate theological questions like, “Can you explain the Trinity to me?” Or would they be more practical questions like, “Why or how could you let this happen?” How do you think Jesus would respond to your questions? Do you think he would give you a straight forward answer or show you the bigger picture of how this thing led to another and another for your good? Or do you think he would give you some other confusing, convoluted answer that would go over your head? Do you think he would rebuke you and tell you how ridiculous your question is? I think he would probably answer you in a way that pointed you to the cross because…
CHRIST COMES TO SERVE YOU.
(I. We are afraid to question Jesus.)
(II. Jesus uses questions to point to the grace of God.)
He does not come to make you feel dumb or bad about yourself. He does not come to make you feel inferior or insignificant. He does not come to put you in your place and show you how little you are and how little you know, and I know this because of the way he answers and settles the ridiculous discussion of the disciples while they were traveling with him.
The disciples got the road trip with Jesus as they travelled through Galilee from the Mount of Transfiguration to Capernaum. They got probably about a ten hour road trip with Jesus, just them and their teacher, as he told them that “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” A truly unique experience, probably better than any Bible study or Seminary course we could ever imagine, and this wasn’t the first time Jesus had told them about these things, “But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.”
They still didn’t get it. And what is perhaps just as bad is that they were afraid to ask him. They were afraid to tell Jesus, “I don’t get it.” So as they travel with Jesus, as he lays out his death and resurrection for them, instead of discussing what he meant and questioning him and learning everything they could, “they… argued with one another about who was the greatest.” As Jesus is explaining God’s plan of salvation for all of mankind, they are arguing about who is the greatest disciple.
Can you imagine travelling and talking with your children for ten hours, teaching them the most important and valuable life lessons and advice you can give to them, and when you finally get home you realize they have spent the whole time arguing with one another over who is the favorite kid because they didn’t understand what you were talking about? I can only imagine the temptation to be disappointed in them. Wouldn’t it be better that they ask you, that they pick your brain and question everything, until they finally understand? Good question or bad questions, a question that drives you further and deeper or a question that you have to take one or two or three steps back to answer, a question is better than not understanding.
As a pastor, as one who is trying to teach you the things that Jesus says and does for you, a question can be, and often is, one of the most encouraging things because it tells me you care, you’re interested, you want to learn, and you’re actually thinking about the things we are talking, reading, and preaching about. I want so much more that you ask a question rather than that you not know or understand. A good question or bad question, one that takes us deeper into thought and consideration or one that we have to take four or five steps back to answer, to clear up the assumptions of your understanding that I make when I preach and teach, I don’t care, just ask the question.
I am not here to confuse you, belittle you, talk down to you, or scoff at you for how little you know. I am here to teach you, to minister to you, and to care for you that you might believe in Jesus, the one whose word I teach. If I am speaking, preaching, and teaching over your head, if I am assuming you know thing that you do not know and so none of what I am saying makes sense, it is not your fault, it is mine. There is nothing wrong with you if you don’t get it. I’m not going to embarrass you or laugh at you behind your back because you don’t understand something. It is not your job to be some great theologian that can understand and toy with the most in-depth theological topics, questions, and concepts of today or yesterday. It is my job to teach them to you in a way that you can understand, both those that are difficult and those that are sometimes assumed to be basic, standard material.
If you have a hard question about the genus maiestaticum or apotelesmaticum, ask it. If you have an easy question about whether which person of the Trinity is which, ask it. Even if it means repeating myself again and again, even if it means going back to the Small Catechism and the basic tenants of the faith, ask the question. If you don’t understand infant baptism or closed communion, or why I wear all these different vestments, ask the question. I can’t know what you don’t know unless you tell me what you don’t know. And I can’t teach you and explain to you the things you don’t know unless I know the things that need teaching and explaining.
Doing these things is one of the greatest joys of being a pastor for me. I love to preach. I love to teach. I just need the opportunity. Don’t keep silent. Don’t be embarrassed. Let me do the thing that I love most about being a pastor. Let me tell you about Jesus, his cross, his death, his resurrection, and how and why every little thing we do, teach, preach, and confess points to the saving work of Christ for us.
That is what Jesus does for his disciples. When their argument is completely outrageous and off topic, when, and I think we can all agree on this, their question and discussion is so absurd and completely contrary to what Jesus is trying to teach them, still Jesus uses it as an opportunity to show them the grace of God. He does not embarrass them or rebuke them and get mad or disappointed with them, but teaches them.
Who is the greatest? The last of all and servant of all who is crucified for all. Even in, arguably, the worst question the disciples could possibly raise, Jesus points them back to what he has been teaching them all along, that “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” Never grudging or growing wary of the hardness of our hearts, the thickness of our skulls, or our simplicity or misunderstanding, only giving us these words of comfort that he was crucified for you, forgives you of all of your sins, overcomes all of your mortal simplicity raising from the grave, giving you eternal life with him as his child received for his sake and in his name. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.