Greatness in God’s Kingdom Means Humility
These are the readings for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
God’s Word for This Week
True greatness is a paradox. It grows out of seeing ourselves as small and God as great. Such greatness has its center in love—both God’s great love for us in Christ and our love for our neighbor. Such love leads to genuine, humble service.
Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 11:18-20
Why is Jeremiah a good example of one that trusted in the Lord?
Even after the Lord reveals a plot against Jeremiah by the men of his own village, Jeremiah did not change his plans or his message. He put himself entirely in the Lord’s hands. He faithfully followed the Word of the Lord. He did it out of love for his people and to save them from destruction.
What can we learn from Jeremiah’s example?
The Lord taught Jeremiah that he could count on the Lord no matter what the situation. That is true for us also. We will be persecuted for following Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12). If we want to live a godly life in Christ and hold to the truth of God’s Word, confess it and witness to it, we too will find opposition. But even with opposition we know the Lord is with us (2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:18).
Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 12:1-15
Why did Miriam and Aaron oppose their brother Moses?
Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses because he had married a lady from Cush (the southern part of Egypt, in modern terms).
When God punished Miriam with leprosy, a skin disease, how did Moses show his humility?
Moses showed his humility by crying out to the Lord to heal Miriam, instead of telling her that she had gotten what she had coming to her.
Second Lesson – James 3:13-18
Who are the truly wise whom James mentions?
The truly wise people are the humble. When one is truly wise, it shows in good deeds and in humility. A truly wise person is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial, and sincere. These virtues are the ones that imitate Christ’s own perfect gentleness and unselfish service to us.
What does James mean when he says that “peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness?”
James speaks of people who are humble and try to keep peace, instead of starting quarrels and perpetuating grudges. They do things that lead to all sorts of good and right results. He compares being lowly to putting a seed low into the ground, later the seed of humility will bring many beautiful results, though at first planting the seed may seem fruitless.
Gospel – Mark 9:30-37
Why were the disciples afraid to ask Jesus about his impending death?
Jesus had told his disciples about the Son of Man (himself). “They will kill him.” The thoughts of the Twelve seemed to stop with those words and not even hear Jesus say, “after three days he will rise.” Betrayal and death did not fit their idea of a Messianic rule.
How are we today like those disciples?
Many Christians today imagine that the chief mark of the church is worldly success and glory, and that the chief purpose of the Christian church relates to activities which put the message of a Savior crucified for sin into the background. They don’t want to hear repeated references to the ugliness of personal sin and the divine necessity of a sacrificial cross to atone for that sin.
What was Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ desire to be first in the kingdom of God?
Jesus, through words and an impressive object lesson, shows that the way to true greatness in his kingdom lies in humble service. (See also Mark 10:43-44 and Luke 22:24-47.)