Reading: Mark 10:32-45 (New International Version)
32They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33"We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise." 35Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." 36"What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. 37They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." 38"You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" 39"We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared." 41When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
There is one vice, one sin which nobody is without. Not me, not believers in Zwartsluis and I think not even you here in Hoghiz! And yet, everybody hates it when he notices it in someone else.
I have heard people admit that they easily lose their temper, have a difficult character, or that they cannot control their desires for sex or liquor. But I cannot remember ever hearing someone accuse himself of the vice I am talking about.
What sin do I mean? Well, what do you think?
I’m talking about pride. “Which one of us is the most important?” “Let us sit at the seats of honour in your glory.”
In the old church they taught that ‘pride’ was the biggest sin, the biggest evil. Lust, greed, drunkenness and such are only small compared to this. ‘Pride’ has been the cause of people turning away from God. ‘He wanted to be like god’.
But maybe you think: “Proud? Me? Oh no, not at all!”
Well, if you want to find out if you are proud, ask yourself: “does it bother me if others don’t notice me or if someone else is doing all the talking in a group of people?” Could it be that I am annoyed by someone who dominates the conversation because I would like to do most of the talking myself? Could it be that it irritates me if someone overlooks me because I really want to be noticed?
Other vices can bring people together. For instance, among people who like to drink you can find real friendship. But pride ruins relationships, always. By pride, people become strangers.
Think of ‘pride’. Who wouldn’t be proud of a new car, or his own piece of land? But watch it! Soon, pride gets you to compare yourself to others: “I have a better, more beautiful one than others!” In this way, you raise yourself above others, and jealousy among people destroys relationships.
Or think of family fights. Of course, fights occur in all families. But the reason that sometimes, things are never resolved, is because of pride. We are not able to say: ‘I’m sorry, forgive me!’ – because of pride. Let the other person say it first, let him be humble!
Because of pride, people drift apart.
It is also pride that keeps us holding on to the wrong thing.
In paradise, the garden of Eden, when the people have sinned and realise it, how do they react? Well, Adam says: ‘the woman whom you gave to be with me, she did it’. And Eve says: ‘the serpent is the cause of all trouble.’ This too is a form of pride. Not being willing to admit that you are guilty, that you messed things up yourself. ‘The serpent, the wife whom you gave to be with me, is the guilty one.
The beginning of the sin is pride, but the continuation of the sin too. We do not give in. Admitting you are wrong is not very common for us. And that is why, us people, knowingly continue on the path of evil. And if it gets painful, we shift the guilt onto someone else. Instead of looking at ourselves, we blame heaven. ‘Where were you, God?’ And that way, we think we have an excuse to keep turning away from God. The consequence of this is that it will never get any better on earth. Our pride is in the way.
Pride is also in the way in our religious life!
You know, Jesus once told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee feels good about himself. He sums up – to himself and at the same time to God – his own moral achievements, his devotion and goodness. ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people, like robbers, evil-doers, adulterers or like the tax collector over there. I fast twice a week and give away a tenth of everything I receive.’
That is spiritual pride! And let’s be honest: do you never have a moment at which you think ‘God must be pleased with me and give me a nice spot in heaven.’ Or: ‘us, reformed Christians are much better than other believers!’
But as often as we notice the tendency to feel better in our religious life, especially better than others or think we have made more spiritual progress than others, then we can be sure that we are not influenced by God, but by Satan!
For isn’t it pride that makes us think we are ‘better than others’!
Now don’t think: ‘pride? That is about others! I don’t think a lot of myself’. If you say this, you could be full of yourself, in reality. Pride has its clutches on us all, more so than you might think.
Among Jesus’ disciples it was discussed more than once: ‘who is the first, who is the greatest among us?’ After Jesus has announced his suffering for the third time, Jacob and John even come to Him and ask: ‘can we sit at the seats of honour, when your Kingdom comes?’
And what does Jesus say? No, he doesn’t rebuke the brothers. He stimulates them to think about it and tells them:
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
“Whoever wants to be first”. I have always thought that Jesus said: ‘people, you are not allowed to be the greatest, you should grant others the first place. ‘ But Jesus doesn’t say that! No, if anyone among you wants to be the greatest – all right – let him be the greatest. But … watch it! – don’t place yourself on the throne, don’t raise yourself above others like ministers and rulers. Be the greatest, but be so in a certain, special way: by excelling at serving!
How can you serve? When it comes to serving we often think of scrubbing the floor, but you can serve each other in all kinds of ways!
For example by looking to the interests of others.
To be honest, there are people in Zwartsluis who say: ‘why are we going to Hoghiz? Let’s take care of our own parishioners.’ But then there is always someone who calls out: ‘we are united with the church in Hoghiz, a gift from God, let’s see how we can support each other, let’s go!’ Yes, to become the greatest you should not look only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others!
Or you might think: ‘we have grown apart so much.’ For example as two friends. You don’t see each other anymore, and you don’t want to see each other anymore and still, it bothers you: ‘but she hurt me so much; she will say it is my fault.’ And in this way we stay where we are, until one of us cries: ‘somebody should be the first, I’ll go!’ By daring to be least important, you become the servant of the other person!
Or the needs of people somewhere in the village affect you. You talk about it at home. ‘What can we do about it?’ You sigh and say ‘oh well, they should work it out for themselves!’ Until someone says: ‘somebody should be the first, whatever happens, I’ll go and see if I can help.’ That is excelling at serving!
“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.” All of Jesus’ life is one sermon against pride. He lead the way to the cross. And on that way he doesn’t humiliate his enemies. On the contrary, He lets them beat Him, He lets them mock Him. He humbled himself till death on the cross. Where he prays for us, proud sinners: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
That is how he serves us! And He calls on us to follow His example in serving, because only that way brings redemption from pride!
I would have wanted for myself to be more humble than I am right now. If I were, I could probably tell you some more about the relief and the peace which you get from being saved from the ‘sinful, conceited Ego’ with all its ‘look at me!’ and ‘am I good, or what!’
Serving … that is the way God’s grace saves you from pride. If we humbly look for our Creator, if we want to be dependent, learn to be ready to help each other, then we shall find life, for ever.
írta Bert Davelaar, Hollandiai lp.