The Life and Teaching of Christ - Part 24 – War and Peace (Text Jeremy McCandless - Sermon delivered by Henry Jordan)
In 1869 Leo Tolstoy published a 1500-page book about the history of war torn Russia called War and Peace. In describing this book someone has written;
“The title, War and Peace is very appropriate for the saga of political intrigue and warfare. While the setting is Russia’s war with Napoleon, War and Peace is also a story of personal conflict and resolution”.
The title of this book is an appropriate description of not only what happens on a Macro level between nations, but also what often happens in communities, churches, families and even in personal relationships. It is sad but true that in life we find conflicts at all levels of society, but alongside that there is always and deep inner yearning for peace. So how might we obtain peace instead of war in our personal relationships. In this passage we see in the middle of an open conflict between his disciples, Jesus gave a discourse on Peace?
Remember the backdrop to this part of the passage is he had just recently taken Peter James and John and gone up onto a mountain top and been transfigured (appeared in his full heavenly glory) before them. Then he has come down from that mountain and He meets the other nine disciples and there is an opportunity to teach the disciples some things that he did not particularly want the general public to know at this time. That, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’ In other words, he is telling them he is going to Jerusalem to die. It is this foundation that Jesus is attempting to lay here, but sadly verse 32 tells us as, 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
Jesus of course would have known they had been arguing because he would have heard their bickering as they made their way along the road. But having asked the question the disciples keep silent because they knew exactly what they had been doing, and that it was not going to go down well with Jesus. In response to this situation Jesus sits them down and begins to teach them about conflict saying, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’ 36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’ The philosophy of the world means that greatness is achieved by getting others to serve you but according to Jesus greatness come by serving others. Let’s be clear this is not Jesus abolishing ambition, it is Jesus recreating and refocusing our drives and ambitions. Changing the ambition to rule into an ambition to serve. Removing the ambition of having things done for us and substituting them with the ambition of doing things for other people.
He just wants to show us a new way, of being great and in order to be great in Gods economy, you have to serve others and by taking other into our arms and supporting them he tells us, we are in fact receiving him, and the one who sent him. While Jesus says this, he has a small child in his arms, that child is an illustration of what he is teaching. A child has no influence, a child cannot advance your career or speak on your behalf to improve your social standing, a child cannot even give us material things. It is easy to cultivate the friendships of those who can do things for us, whose influence can be useful to us
This is where there appears to be a sort of interruption to the narrative and out of left field so to speak. This happens. 38 ‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us. People have been doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing, and crediting Jesus but the disciples told them to stop. Sometimes Christians are guilty of acting exclusively. Their attitude can be if you are not part of our group then you are not a proper Christian. Just because someone doesn’t see eye to eye with you or maybe is even not quite correct on minor theological issue does not mean that that person does not know the Lord and is serving the Lord.
Jesus goes on to say, “Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. I believe here Jesus is reasoning that someone who is casting out demons in my name must be a believer. If he was a believer, they then should have brought him into their fellowship, he may have needed further discipleship and teaching, but they should have welcomed him and received him, because by receiving such people you are in fact receiving the Lord.
Those who serve people in the name of the Lord especially serve those who cannot pay them back, but also, never forget service will also included welcoming and receiving those who already serve in His name. In this country and in our climate, we perhaps don’t readily get the image of offering something as simple as a cup of water as a sign of Hospitality, but a cup of water in the heat of the day was indeed hospitality to someone in need.
I began by say in there was a novel called War and Peace, a novel as much about interpersonal conflict and relationships, as it is about politics or war. War, where does that come from. Peace, how might you have it. If we can say to out brothers and Sister in Christ, I am here to serve you, not to be served by you. I submit to you that if in every conflict in this and every church, if everyone of us was to say, how can I help, what can I do to be of service, how can I help you, we would resolve a lot of conflicts, very quickly. The greatest in the kingdom and the people whose life is characterised by peace, are those that serve others. To put it in modern language, the greatest of those in the kingdom are those who are prepared to let others take first place and bear no ill will. I heard someone once say, the mark of spiritual believer is marked when someone takes off the bib and puts on the apron. D L Moody said, the measure of a man is not how many servants he has, but how many people he serves. That’s not the way the world operates, but that’s the way the kingdom operates. You may not be well known in this world, but you will be well known in the kingdom that is to come and the people who are the most well-known down here may well not be known at all in heaven.
OK folks, time for us to take of our bibs and put on our aprons.
War and Peace
Topics: The Life and Teaching of Jesus