"Where a Kid Can Be a Kid"#88-26
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on February 28, 2021
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2021 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Mark 10
Sometimes knowing that something is impossible for you can be a relief. I learned this as a kid when my family got in a car wreck while we were on a road trip. When I picture it, I can see my dad driving, my mom's in the front passenger seat, and she's turned around facing my brother Matt and me, in the backseat. She's sorting through the cooler of food that she had packed early that morning while Matt and I were still sleeping. She's looking for the bologna so that she can make us some sandwiches for lunch. And Matt and I are arguing about who gets to play Tetris next on our new Game Boy. Suddenly, the car lurches to the right. My mom screams as my dad drives off the highway 70 miles an hour into the ditch, narrowly avoiding the trailer that had broken loose from the truck in front of us and was now drifting past us like a giant spinning Tetris block.
When the dust settled, my mom and dad assessed the facts of our situation. Nobody was seriously hurt, but we were halfway into our road trip and therefore hundreds of miles from home. Our car had a broken axle and therefore was undrivable, and it was the 1980s. Therefore, none of us had a cell phone. As my ten-year-old self considered the implications of all this, processing what was, as far as I was concerned, an impossible situation, I said the most reasonable thing a kid could say. "Hey Mom, could I have my bologna sandwich now?" You see, sometimes it is a relief to know that a situation is impossible for you.
Now, you've faced impossible situations, or at least so they seemed at the time, what does that feel like? It feels like being a ten-year-old in a car wreck. So how could that ever be a relief? It all depends on who's with you in the wreck. If you are so privileged as to have a capable, loving, supportive, nurturing, bologna sandwich-making parent with you, then the situation may be impossible as far as you are concerned, but not as far as they are concerned, and they've got you covered. They're responsible, they can fix it, and they made lunch. That's the relief when you're facing an impossible situation and you know it. It all depends on who's with you in the wreck.
If you're with a bunch of other ten-year-olds, that's not a relief. That's the Lord of the Flies. Did you ever have to read that book in school? Published in 1954 by William Golding, the Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of boys, crash landed on a deserted island, and their disastrous attempt to try to deal with an impossible situation on their own. They landed in paradise, a tropical island filled with palm trees and butterflies, and fat juicy pigs for hunting, and a blue, green lagoon for a swimming pool, a boy's dream. Early on in the story, the boys elect a chief. His name is Ralph. And in his first speech to the boys, Ralph says to them, "This is our island. It's a good island. Until the grown-ups come and fetch us, we'll have fun."
And all the boys shout, "Yeah, we'll have fun!"
But then a little boy, he raises his hand and he asks, "What about the beastie?"
Lois Lowry, another author, was seventeen years old when the Lord of the Flies was first published, and she remembers reading it as a freshman in college. Years later, she wrote about the experience. She said, "Never before and never again have I been so jolted by a book's shift in tone, by the ominous awareness that things are going to turn very, very bad. The boys quickly go from hunting and slaughtering pigs to hunting and murdering each other."
"What about the beast?" the little boy asked.
Some of them were frightened and others were excited. But Simon, the quiet one, the thoughtful one, wonders about this. "Maybe there is a beast, but it's not something that we can hunt and kill. Maybe it's us."
On this program, we've been listening to the Gospel according to Mark, one of the ancient biographies of Jesus of Nazareth. We've come to the ominous middle section when the book shifts tone. Early on, Jesus has proven Himself to be not just a powerful healer, not just an enlightening teacher, not just a brilliant prophet, but the eternal Son of God, the Creator who has become a human being to bring the kingdom of God, the rule and reign of God, on earth as it is in heaven. And it began with an urgent tone, a jubilant and powerful tone.
But now in the middle, the tone shifts; it gets complicated, uneasy and sometimes comically tragic because the disciples, the followers of Jesus, they don't get it. They don't get what Jesus is up to. You see, they know, as well as you and I, that things have turned very bad in this world, that humanity has somehow made a wreck of this beautiful blue, green island. But we're starting to see that it's worse than that. The problem isn't just out there with others; it's also in here with us, in the rivalry and jealousy and paranoia of our own hearts.
Listen to how it goes in Mark chapter 10, starting at verse 13. People began bringing children, kids, to Jesus so that He might place His hand on them. But His disciples rebuked them, scolded them. Jesus, when He saw this, became really irritated and said to them, "Let the children keep coming to Me. Don't stop them because this is how it is with the rule and reign of God. I am telling you the truth. Unless you receive the rule and reign of God like a child, you will certainly never enter it." And embracing the children in His arms, He blessed them. And as He was starting out on the way, a man, after running up and kneeling before Him, asked Him, "Good Teacher, what should I do so that I may inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except One, God. You know the Commandments: "Do not murder," "Do not commit adultery," "Do not steal," "Do not bear false witness," "Do not defraud," "Honor your father and mother." But he declared to Him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept intentionally from my youth." And Jesus looked at him and loved him and said to him, "You lack one thing. Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come on and follow Me." At this, the man's face fell and he went away grieving because he had many possessions. And Jesus, intently looking, around says to His disciples, "How difficult it will be for those with possessions to enter the rule and reign of God." And they were astonished at His words.
But again, He says to them, "Children, how difficult it is to enter the rule and reign of God. It is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for the wealthy to enter the rule and reign of God." And they were even more astonished. And they said to Him, "Who then can be saved?" And Jesus looked at them and says, "As far as people are concerned, it's impossible. But not as far as God is concerned; all things are possible with God." Peter began saying to Him, "Look, we have left everything and have followed You." Jesus declared, "I am telling you the truth. There is no one who has left house, or brothers or sisters, or mothers or fathers, or children or lands for My sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, the Good News, no one will fail to receive a hundred times more now in this present time houses, and brothers and sisters, and mothers and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last and the last, first."
And they were walking up to Jerusalem and Jesus was walking on ahead of them, and they were excited. But some who were following were afraid. Jesus, again, took the twelve aside and began to tell them the things that were going to happen to Him. "Look," He said, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is going to be betrayed by the chief priests and the scribes. And they will condemn Him to death and hand Him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him and spit on Him and scourge Him, and they will kill Him. And after three days, He will rise." Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, go to Jesus and say to Him, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask." He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They say, "Let one of us sit on Your right hand and the other on Your left in your glory." He said to them, "You don't know what you're asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I'm going to drink or to be baptized with the Baptism with which I'm going to be baptized?" And they said, "We're able." And He said to them, "You will drink the cup that I am going to drink and you will be baptized with the Baptism with which I'm going to be baptized. But to sit at My right and My left is not for me to give. These places are for those for whom they have already been prepared." When the ten heard this, they became really irritated with James and John. Jesus called them to Him and says to them, "You know that those who supposedly rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But not so with you. Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant and whoever wants to be first among you will be slave of all, for even the Son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as an atoning sacrifice, a covering of sin for the sake of the multitudes." That's the Gospel of Mark 10:13-45.
Wrecked on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere: no phone, no money, no transportation, that was an impossible situation for me as a ten-year-old. And knowing that it was impossible came as a relief only because of whom I was with. But even the best parents can't get us out of this other situation. The Lord of the Flies is an unsettling story, not because it shows how badly little boys can behave when left to their own devices. Can you remember what the title signifies: The Lord of the Flies? It refers to the decapitated head of a pig that the boys speared on a stick as an offering to the beast that was now lording it over the flies it had attracted. And Simon, the quiet one, the thoughtful one, he sees the head and he imagines it's talking to him, "Fancy thinking that the beast was something that you could hunt and kill," it said. "But I am the beast," says the Lord of the Flies. "And I am part of you."
It's unsettling because you've seen the Lord of the Flies, haven't you—in petty jealousy, politics and religion, in vicious rivalry, in your home and in your family, in the tormented paranoia of your own thoughts? And like me, sometimes you are tempted to believe that it's possible for you to fix. That's the rich man's problem. It's not just that he has possessions, but that his possessions have him. He believes that his stuff, his status, his striving can fix things or offer an escape.
What's notable about him is his belief in himself. And the thing that's notable about the child that Jesus mentions isn't innocence. The beast has lodged itself in the heart of the child as well as the heart of the rich man. And Jesus embraced them both. Jesus looked at the rich man and loved him. And that's how Jesus embraces you. He looks and He loves—not the love of attraction, but the love of self-giving sacrifice for the unattractive. He said, "Father, I will go and be with them. I will do what they cannot. I will suffer Your just judgment against sin so that the beast in them will die with Me. And I will live in them instead."
I was telling my eighteen-year-old son, Josiah, about that car wreck long ago, when Grandma was making bologna sandwiches. I asked him, "Do you remember ever being in an impossible situation like that?"
He said, "When Jude hit his head, and you and mom had to take him to the emergency to get stitches."
It was another time when we were halfway through a road trip and a hundred miles from home, Josiah's little brother, Jude, who was only two at the time, he fell and cut a deep gash in the skin just above his eye, and he bled like a stuck pig, and we couldn't stop it. So Amy and I rushed him to the emergency room. And once again, my parents, who happened to be with us on this road trip, came to the rescue, and they took care of our older three children while Amy and I waited with Jude. And ten-year-old Josiah, he realized that as a kid, he couldn't fix the situation, but he trusted others could. So he did what he could. He could be a kid. He could be a big brother. He could be good company for his siblings while they waited.
And so also with you, disciples of Jesus, fixing this world is as impossible as fixing yourself, at least as far as you were concerned. You can't do it, but He can. He has, He is, He will. You have been baptized. And if you haven't been baptized, He invites you to come, come on and be baptized into His death so that He will live in you and you in Him. He's done what you cannot, therefore in Him, you do what you can: serve others in His Name, and pray with me.
Lord Jesus, we are so privileged to have You with us. Live in us so that we can be like kids in Your coming kingdom. Amen.
Reflections for February 28, 2021
Title: Where a Kid Can Be a Kid
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For FREE online resources, archived audio, our mobile app, and more, go to lutheranhour.org. Now back to our Speaker, Dr. Michael Zeigler.
Mike Zeigler: Thank you, Mark. I'm visiting again with Dr. James Voelz, a longtime teacher of the Bible and author of a two-volume, 1,200 page commentary on the Gospel according to Mark published by Concordia Publishing House. Thanks for joining us, Dr. Voelz.
James Voelz: Well, thanks very much. It's great being with you.
Mike Zeigler: We repeatedly hear that Jesus' disciples don't get it. They don't understand Jesus' mission, His goal, His intentions, and their misunderstanding is expressed, especially clearly in Mark chapter 10 when two of His disciples come up to Jesus and ask that they could sit next to Him in His glory and Jesus explains to them that they don't know what they're asking, or they don't know what they're requesting. So what do they think they're asking?
James Voelz: You can just see when James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, come and they say, "Teacher, we desire that You do whatever we ask You to do." Well, you're almost cringing when you hear something like that. And He says to them, "Well, what do you want Me to do for you?" And so they said, "Give us this privilege, opportunity, that we sit one on Your right side, and one on Your left in Your glory." Now let's talk about that phrase, "In Your glory." It is a revelation of who God truly is. Now Jesus says, "You don't know what you are asking for yourselves." Hmm. Now why would He say that? And He says, "Are you able to drink the cup that I am going to drink?" And then He mentions the Baptism, to be baptized. Are you able to be baptized with it? And they said, "We are able." Jesus goes on to say, "The cup which I am going to drink, you will drink, and the Baptism with which I am going to be baptized, you will be baptized. But to sit at My left is not My thing to give, but it is for those, for whom it is already prepared, it stands prepared." What is Jesus referring to here?
In chapter 15, and we've done a little study of the crucifixion scene, it says in verse 27: "And with Jesus they crucified two bandits, one on His right, and one on His left." Well, now we know what Jesus' glory is. Remember in a previous session we talked about God showing Himself for who He truly is at the cross? "Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down." Do you want to know what God is really like? He is the God who takes upon Himself the sins of the world, who suffers in our place, who comes to bring salvation. You want to know the true heart of God? You look at the cross, that's His glory. That's where He reveals Himself for who He truly is. Now what about sitting? In the last session we talked about the nature of the cross, how big it was, how heavy it was. Well, what we didn't mention there is that generally speaking, the cross had a cedilla, a seat, a little block nailed to the vertical stipes, the vertical beam, that allowed the crucified one to actually sit on the cross. This is part of the thing that made them last so long. They actually could, in some way, get relief from the pain of hanging by being propped a little bit on that cedilla.
So, Michael, it is literally true those people sat one on His right and one on His left in His glory. And listeners, this is why Jesus says, "You don't know what you're asking." That this is going to be such, in human terms, a horrible experience for the revelation of God's heart, and the revelation of God's activity. That's the point of the cup. To drink the cup is to undergo the judgment of God. And that judgment is connected to the wrath of God. So let's put it this way then, to drink the cup is to drink the judgment of God as His wrath is poured out upon sin. That's the explanation of what's going on at the cross. He's drinking the cup of judgment—God's judgment upon sin. And that's the glory of God. You can see that God is taking care of sin on the cross. He is doing this in Himself. Why? Because we can't do it. There's no way that we can do this. He has got to do it all Himself.
Mike Zeigler: And this whole discussion happens in the context of an argument of how Jesus followers are treating each other. What does that say for us as we reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus as his followers today? How does this shape the way we treat each other?
James Voelz: Well, I guess you have to think of it like this: you weren't able, you are so incapable, all of us are so incapable, we cannot participate in that glory. We cannot. There is no reason for us to believe that we're better than each other. Absolutely not. It's a matter always, the Gospel of Mark is very good at this, it's always a matter of looking to the cross, looking to what Jesus did. And when you do it that way, then you have no standing in which you should be comparing yourself to one another.
Mike Zeigler: That sets them free to be honest about their lack of getting it, as we've discussed. It's put on display time and time again throughout this Gospel. And yet, Jesus sticks with them.
James Voelz: That's right. He sticks with them.
Mike Zeigler: Yeah. Thank you for joining us for this conversation. And would we pray that God would continue to bless your reflections on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
James Voelz: Thanks very much.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)