Sermon Detail

Happiness Revealed Seeing Jesus: The Upside, Counter-Intuitive Kingdom

March 23, 2023 | Buster Brown

"They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, '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.' But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, 'What were you discussing on the way?' But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, 'If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.' And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 'Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.' John said to him, 'Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.' But Jesus said, 'Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.'" Mark 9:30-41

The most important aspect in the life of a disciple is to see the reality of Jesus in a comprehensive and clear fashion by the power of the Holy Spirit under the authority of the Word of God. In this passage, we have a second passion prediction (v. 30-32) which is followed by an argument among the disciples regarding who was the greatest.

The disciples still don't get it! (Mark 8:31-32, 10:33-37)

This passage reveals a jarring contrast between Jesus’ humility and the disciples' misunderstanding of greatness and the carnal desire for distinction and recognition.

1. True greatness is to be pursued by the disciples of Jesus.

"And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him." Hebrews 11:6

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, page 26

"Leave your simple ways behind, and begin to live; learn to use good judgment." Proverbs 9:6

"Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgement. Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life.” Proverbs 9:10-11

2. Initially pursue servanthood (“if anyone would be first he must be last of all and servant of all”).

3. We display the heart of a servant by embracing the marginalized and those who cannot protect themselves (i.e. “and he took a child and put him in the midst of them”).

4. The embracing of the upside down kingdom sets off a glorious chain reaction (vv. 37-40).

In the conclusion of the argument regarding greatness, Jesus draws from the child in his arms a subtle and surprising message. The child is not used, as often as supposed, as an example of humility, but as an example of the little and insignificant ones whom followers of Jesus are to receive, embrace, and protect. It is understood that the humblest acts of kindness set off a chain reaction that shakes Heaven itself, for whatever is done to the least is done to Jesus and whatever is done to Jesus is done to the Father (Matthew 25:40).

1. We must continually see Jesus clearly.

“Do not be content to have the right ideas of the love of Christ in your mind unless you have a gracious taste of it in your heart. Christ is the meat, the bread, the food provided by God for your soul.” John Owen, The Glory of Christ, pages 55-56

2. We must surround ourselves with a community of faith that underscores “the counter-intuitive Kingdom of Jesus” (the upside down kingdom). This community should rejoice in serving others and see it as a high priority.

3. True greatness is to be pursued with diligence and resolve.

4. There is a deep and glorious reward in seeking after the triune God. 


1. As you read this text do you understand that children were considered to be on the margins of that which is truly important?

2. What was the “wordless confession of the disciples which exposed their hearts”?

3. How do we pursue the reward that comes from the hand of the Father and the applause of Heaven?

4. How can you serve others in the name of the Lord? Who are people that our society considers marginalized that you can serve?

5. Think through the following quote: “At no point does the way of Jesus diverge more sharply from the way of the world than on the question of greatness. Jesus does not exactly repudiate prominence and greatness but he redefines them. The challenge is to be great in things that matter to God.” New American Commentary