Are You Willing to Lay Down Being Great On the Altar of Hatred, Suffering & Persecution?

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by John Mark. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-one through fifty of the ninth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find at the very beginning a second time when Jesus would teach His disciples concerning the suffering He would face, experience and endure upon making the journey to Jerusalem. Perhaps one of the greatest truths surrounding these specific times when the Lord Jesus Christ would speak unto His disciples is that there would be certain times when Jerusalem would almost by synonymous with suffering—and not only with suffering, but also with death. It is truly something we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome and powerful truth that despite those times which Jesus would indeed and would in fact make the journey to Jerusalem—a number of them which are indeed and are in fact highlighted within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John—and yet although He would face persecution, opposition and resistance from both the Jews and the religious leaders there in the city, there would be no suffering as He would later describe. In all reality, it’s actually quite interesting to think about and consider the fact that Jesus would and could journey unto Jerusalem multiple times during the course of the three and a half year period of time He moved and walked among us as the Word made flesh, and yet although He would face and experience intense persecution, opposition and resistance from the Jews and the religious system, His time would not yet come. There would countless times within the narratives written by the gospel authors when the Lord Jesus Christ would indeed and would in fact come unto Jerusalem and would freely teach in the Temple, and yet there would be no suffering, nor would He ultimately be seized, laid hold of and arrested that He might stand trial before the religious system of that day before ultimately standing trial before Herod and Pilate.

            It is something worth thinking about and considering when you read the words found in these portions of Scripture that eventually there would come a point in time when although Jesus had entered into Jerusalem a number of times and engaged in the work and ministry of the kingdom of heaven, He would ultimately describe how the city of Jerusalem would indeed be a tremendous place of suffering, persecution, ridicule, slander, mockery, and ultimately death and crucifixion. It’s truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading these words that there would be multiple times when Jesus would and could enter into the city of Jerusalem, and would teach and speak freely unto and among the Jews—and not only among the Jews, but also among all those who would gather themselves together unto Him. There were multiple times when Jesus would go up unto the city of Jerusalem, and as we see and notice within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John—those times would more often than not coincide with the pilgrimage feasts which many from within Judaea and Galilee, and throughout the surrounding regions, nations and lands would come unto Jerusalem that they might celebrate and observe the feasts. The gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written by the apostle John is a powerful picture and description of the Lord Jesus Christ moving within and throughout Jerusalem during times of great celebration among all those who would gather themselves into and within the city to celebrate the feasts of Israel. You cannot read the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the entire gospel is filled with narratives and accounts of Jesus departing from Galilee that He might make His way unto the city of Jerusalem. The New Testament gospel of John is perhaps the one gospel which most aptly describes Jesus’ movement and ministry within the city of Jerusalem prior to that final journey unto the city which would result in His arrest, His trial, His suffering, and ultimately His death and crucifixion.

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly tremendous truth, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that although Jesus would and did move freely within the city of Jerusalem for a period of time, there would come a point in time when He could no longer move freely in the midst of the city. There were a number of occasions when the Lord Jesus Christ would indeed move within the city of Jerusalem, and would even teach within the Temple there in the midst of the city, and would speak unto the people without anyone laying hands on Him or seizing Him. Oh although it was indeed true that He would face and experience tremendous opposition, persecution and resistance from the Jews and the religious leaders it would and could go no further than that until the time would come when the Father would lift and remove the hedge round about His Son and allow both the religious and sinners to lay their hands upon Him. What we find in the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by John Mark is a truly tremendous picture of the Lord Jesus beginning to teach His disciples how He must needs suffer many things at the hands of and be rejected by the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people before ultimately being killed and crucified. Beginning to read with and from the thirtieth verse of the ninth chapter New Testament gospel narrative which was written by John Mark we find Jesus and the disciples once more departing and passing through Galilee, and He would not that any man know that He was present, for He would continue to teach His disciples how “the Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that He is killed, He shall rise the third day.” You cannot read these words without encountering a secondary description of the Lord Jesus Christ teaching and revealing unto His disciples once more that HE would indeed would in fact suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes, and elders of the people before ultimately being killed and crucified. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that eventually there would come a point in time when the city of Jerusalem would indeed be synonymous with suffering and ultimately with death.

            As I read the words found in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but think about and consider that eventually and ultimately the city of Jerusalem—that city which Jesus had previously moved within freely without anyone laying hands on Him—would transition into a powder keg of vehement hatred, animosity, malice, anger and rage toward and against Him. What makes this all the more interesting when you take the time to think about it is that there were glimpses and signs of this vehement hatred, rage, anger and malice toward Jesus within the city of Jerusalem—particularly and especially on sabbath days when He would bring healing, cleansing and restoration to those who had a great need within their physical bodies and persons. You can indeed read the gospel narratives and encounter the truly awesome truth that during those three and a half years Jesus was present within the city of Jerusalem He would indeed and would in fact experience intense persecution, opposition and resistance from both the Jews, as well as the religious leaders—persecution and opposition that would eventually culminate in the place where Judas who was one of the twelve disciples would ultimately conspire together with the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel to betray Jesus into their hands. What we find and what we read within the opening verses of this passage and portion of Scripture is Jesus passing through Galilee and would not that any man would know it, for from that time Jesus had begun teaching the disciples that the Son of man would be delivered into the hands of men, and they would kill Him. Oh how truly intriguing it is to think about and consider this truth and fact, for there would eventually come a point within the life and ministry of Jesus when Jerusalem would no longer be a place He would and could freely move, for it would be a place of tremendous opposition, resistance and persecution toward and against Him.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage and I can’t help but think about and consider the tremendous truth and reality that what is present here is once more the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ being told and taught by the Lord Jesus Christ that He must needs journey unto Jerusalem, and that He must needs ultimately be killed before being raised from death to life on the third day. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this reality and how truly incredibly it truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that immediately after Jesus would ask the disciples concerning the opinions of flesh and blood concerning who He was He would ultimately flip the script and turn the attention and focus toward that which they themselves believed and thought concerning Him and His identity. It would be the apostle Peter who would at that time speak up and declare that Jesus was indeed the Christ and the Son of the living God. Jesus would declare unto Him that flesh and blood had not revealed this unto him, but rather His Father in heaven, and upon this rock He would build His church and the gates of hell would and could not prevail against it. What we must needs recognize and understand after reading these words is that from that time on Jesus would begin teaching and speaking unto the disciples how He must needs journey unto Jerusalem, suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel before being despised and rejected, and ultimately killed and crucified. It is truly something intriguing to think about the fact that eventually there would come a point in time when Jesus would begin teaching the disciples how He must needs suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people before He would indeed and would in fact be killed and crucified. We know for a fact that the disciples were incredibly sorrowful when Jesus spoke such words—and not only were they incredibly sorrowful, but we also know that they did not and could not understand what it was they were hearing from the lips and mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only this, but we also find Simon called Peter taking Jesus aside from the twelve disciples and rebuking Him declaring unto Him that this would surely never befall or come unto Him.

            IF there is one thing I absolutely love about the words which are found within the narrative of Jesus the Christ and Simon called Peter, it’s that Jesus would and could not be deterred from that purpose and assignment for which He had been sent. As you read of this exchange which would take place between the Lord Jesus Christ and Simon called Peter you will find that Jesus would turn unto Peter and rebuke him—and not only rebuke him, but also emphatically declare unto him, saying, “Get thee behind me Satan! Thou art an offense to me; for thou savorest not the things that be of God but those things which be of men.” Oh it is truly astonishing and remarkable to read the words found in this passage, for not only did Jesus know that He would indeed suffer many things and be rejected of the scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel, but He was also unwilling to allow anything or anyone to stand in His way and deter Him from fulfilling that for which He had been sent. The Lord Jesus Christ would indeed and would in fact begin teaching the disciples how He must needs suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, and be rejected before ultimately being killed and crucified. We dare not and must not miss the significance of what is found within this passage of Scripture, for the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture bring us face to face with the fact that Jesus would and could not be deterred, nor would or could He be swayed from the purpose, the mission and assignment for which He had been sent. Jesus knew that He would eventually and ultimately suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, and would ultimately be killed and crucified before rising from death to life on the third day.

            While on the surface it might not appear to be anything worth thinking about and considering when reading this exchange between Simon called Peter and the Lord Jesus Christ, I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is something which must be recognized and understood here. In order to truly understand that which is found here within this passage of Scripture—and not only what’s found here, but also what’s found in the ninth chapter beginning with the thirtieth verse—it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and consider the temptation of the Lord Jesus in the wilderness, as well as Jesus’ experience and encounter with the Father in the garden of Gethsemane. There is not a doubt in my mind that we must needs recognize and understand Jesus’ time in the wilderness when and where He was tempted of the devil, as well as Jesus’ time in the garden of Gethsemane, for the words which we find here call and draw us into a powerful place of understanding concerning Jesus’ unwavering and unflinching desire and willingness to perfectly, fully and completely fulfill the divine will, plan and purpose of the Father. It is truly worth understanding Jesus in the wilderness and Jesus in the garden, for between the wilderness and the garden we would find Jesus teaching His disciples how He must needs suffer many things and be rejected by the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel before ultimately being killed and crucified. BETWEEN THE WILDERNESS AND THE GARDEN! Oh there is truly something powerful that happens between the wilderness and the garden, for during those three and a half years Jesus would walk among us as the Word made flesh and manifested before us in our midst Jesus would know within His heart, within His spirit, and within His soul that He must needs ultimately make one final trip to the city of Jerusalem where He would indeed suffer and experience tremendous suffering, opposition, persecution, and affliction before He would ultimately be killed and put to death. Jesus recognized and understood that He must needs journey unto Jerusalem, and that there was no way around, nor was there any way of avoiding the city of Jerusalem, for the city of Jerusalem would indeed and would in fact be that place where He would face and  experience tremendous suffering, persecution, and ultimately death. With this in mind, I now invite you to consider the following narratives and accounts concerning the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness:

            “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and sitteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord they God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him” (Matthew 4:1-11).

            “And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him” (Mark 1:12-13).

            “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungred. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: For that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt tempt the Lord thy God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season” (Luke 4:1-13).

            With each of these passages we find Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness, and it would be there in the wilderness where He would be tempted of the devil—and not only tempted of the devil, but tempted of the devil after Jesus had fasted for forty days and was afterward hungry. Scripture makes it very clear that there in the wilderness Jesus would indeed and would in fact be tempted of the devil for forty days—and not only would He be tempted of the devil, but there would be very specific temptations the devil would bring against Him. We know the devil would tempt the Lord Jesus to command and turn stones into bread—a temptation that would undoubtedly be geared toward His flesh and His being hungry. Undoubtedly the devil knew that Jesus was tired, was weak, was weary and was hungry, and as a direct result of this knowledge his first temptation would be unto Jesus that He would command stones to be turned into bread. Jesus’ response to the devil would be one of absolute and complete authority, for Jesus would emphatically declare unto the devil how it was written that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word which proceeds forth from the mouth of God. Where the temptations become all the more intriguing is when you think about and consider the fact that the devil would then take Jesus up into and atop an exceeding high mountain and would show Him all the kingdoms of the earth in a moment’s time before offering them all up to Jesus if He would bow down and worship Him. Both the apostle Matthew as well as the Gentile physician Luke would write and record the actual temptations of Jesus in the wilderness by the devil, and they would both describe how Satan would indeed and would in fact show unto Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment’s time—and not only show them unto Jesus, but also offer them unto Jesus at a price. That price would not only be Jesus bowing and falling down and worshipping him, but also forfeiting and going around the cross and around that will of the Father which was in heaven.

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how absolutely incredible and tremendous this truly is when you take the time to think about it, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that there in the wilderness the devil would tempt Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world and all the glory therein if He would but fall down and worship Him. There in the wilderness the devil and the tempter would tempt the Lord Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world and the glory therein if He would bow down and worship him. Oh how incredibly intriguing it is to think about and consider the awesome and powerful truth that concerning this second temptation of Jesus in the wilderness the tempter would not only show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, but would show Jesus the glory of them. Moreover, the devil would not only show Jesus the glory of the kingdoms of the earth, but would also directly link the glory of those kingdoms of the world to worship of him. The devil would indeed offer Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for Jesus worshipping him—and not only worshipping him, but also engaging in that which would be entirely and altogether different from the divine plan, purpose and will of the Father who was in heaven. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how absolutely incredible this truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous and powerful truth that the Lord Jesus Christ would indeed be offered a path to the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them all without consequence of suffering, without persecution, without affliction, without opposition, and without the cross. The tempter would show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and would offer them unto Him in a moment’s of time and would offer them unto Him if He would indeed bow down and worship him. Oh we must needs recognize and understand this, for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome and powerful that the Lord Jesus Christ was offered a path to the kingdoms of the world and the glory therein without and apart from any suffering and without and apart from dying and being crucified.

            I am sitting here today thinking about and considering Jesus’ experience and encounter with the devil and tempter in the wilderness, and how even there in the wilderness Jesus would and could not be deterred, nor would He be swayed from that which the Father had sent Him. Jesus would not turn and transform stones into bread to satisfy His own needs, His own desires, and His own wants. What’s more, is that not only would Jesus not command stones be turned into bread to satisfy His own needs and wants, but Jesus would also not be deterred, nor would He be swayed from the divine purpose and mission for which He had been sent—namely, suffering and ultimately being killed and crucified. Jesus was not only shown all the kingdoms of the world, but was also shown the glory contained within them, and would be offered it all if He would but bow down and worship the devil. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this particular narrative and account, for it calls and draws our attention to the truly incredible truth that the Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness would and could not be deterred, nor could He be swayed away from the true mission, purpose and assignment for which He had been sent. Essentially the temptation surrounding the kingdoms of the world and the glory therein would be an offer made by the devil to give Jesus the nations of the earth—not as an inheritance, but rather as something which would be given and offered unto Him by the devil. Oh this temptation is interesting—not only because it offered Jesus a way and a path to the kingdoms and nations of the earth without and apart from suffering and death, but it also offered Him the nations of the earth which were spoken of as being His inheritance. It would be in the Old Testament poetic book we find and encounter the LORD declaring the nations of the earth being given unto the Lord Jesus as an inheritance, for it was Jesus as the Son of David who would rule and reign over the nations with a sceptre of righteousness. What we have here is something entirely and altogether different being offered by the devil, for the devil would offer unto the Lord Jesus Christ the kingdoms of the earth and the glory thereof without and apart from the cross. Scripture is unclear if the devil and tempter would have actually given the kingdoms of the world unto Jesus if He bowed down and worship him, but we do know for certain that Satan offered Jesus kingdoms and the glory therein without and apart from suffering and death.

            When you think about and consider this awesome and tremendous truth you will encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness would be offered a path to the kingdoms of the world and the glory therein without and apart from suffering and death, and yet even there in the wilderness Jesus would not and could not be deterred, enticed, nor swayed away from the divine mission and assignment which the Father had sent Him into the earth. The Lord Jesus the Christ would not and could not be deterred and swayed from the suffering, the opposition, the persecution, the affliction, and ultimately death and crucifixion, and there was absolutely nothing or no one who could bring Him to the place where He would indeed transition from that place within the earth. It’s incredibly interesting to think and consider that it would be there in the wilderness where the Lord Jesus would emphatically declare unto and command Satan to get himself hence and depart from Him—something which would seemingly be echoed when Simon called Peter would pull Jesus aside and rebuke Him concerning the words which He spoke concerning the suffering and death which He had spoken about. The Lord Jesus Christ would emphatically declare, proclaim and instruct Satan to depart from Him and to get himself hence in the wilderness in the midst of temptation, and here within this portion of Scripture we find the Lord Jesus Christ once more emphatically speaking directly unto Satan and instructing him to depart from Him and to get himself hence, for he was an offense Him. What’s more, is that not only did the Lord Jesus declare that Satan was an offense to Him, but He would also declare unto him that he did not savor the things which be of God, but those things which be of men. Oh how incredibly powerful and intriguing this truly is when you take the time to think about it, for there would only be one other time when Jesus would speak directly unto Satan and instruct and command him to get behind him—namely, on this occasion when after He taught His disciples how He must needs suffer many things at the hands of and be rejected by the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, Simon called Peter would pull Him aside and rebuke Him for such words and such a notion as suffering and dying. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the gospel narratives concerning the Lord Jesus Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and the time He spent in prayer before the Father who was in heaven:

            “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (Matthew 26:36-46).

            “And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to His disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; and saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him. And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the house is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise up, let us go: lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand” (Mark 14:32-42).

            “And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Luke 22:39-46).

            We must needs read and pay close and careful attention to the words which are found in this particular portion and passage of Scripture, for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome and powerful truth that even in the garden Jesus knew that He would and could not bypass, nor could He go around the suffering which was before Him. There in the garden Jesus would indeed pray before and unto the Father concerning it being possible that the cup might pass from Him, however, He would deliberately and intentionally resolve within His heart and spirit that it was not His will which needed to be done, but the divine will of the Father who was in heaven. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for even in the garden Jesus was unwilling to allow anything to deter Him from that which was before Him. Jesus knew full well that the hour was quickly approaching when He would not only be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people, but also that He would enter into a tremendous period of suffering. Jesus knew, recognized and understood that the hour had come for Him to be betrayed by one of His own into the hands of those who vehemently hated and opposed Him, and He sought to pray earnestly before the Father who was in heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ would indeed and would in fact pray before and unto the Father who was in heaven concerning the cup which was before Him, for Jesus knew that the cup was before Him, and that He must needs drink from the cup. Jesus knew that there was a strong and powerful that was present before Him, and when the hour came for Him to drink it He would enter into that secret closet of prayer before the Father where He would earnestly and vehemently pray unto Him—not only for the strength to endure the suffering which was before Him, but also for the will of the Father to be done and accomplished in the earth. If there is one thing we must needs realize, recognize and understand concerning the Lord Jesus Christ it’s that He was indeed and was in fact one-hundred percent and fully man, and as such He was therefore subject to all the same emotions as men were. What’s more, is that not only was He subject to all the same emotions as men were, but He would also need to trust in and rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill and complete the divine will, plan and purpose of the Father who was in heaven. Jesus would enter into the garden exceeding sorrowful unto the point of death, for He knew that the hour of His suffering and ultimately His death had finally arrived, and He would drink the cup the Father had set before Him.

            It is absolutely necessary that we call and draw our attention to the words which are found within these passages of Scripture, for there is a strong and powerful link and connection between the wilderness and the garden. We must needs realize, recognize and understand how absolutely astounding and incredible this truly is, for between the wilderness and the garden Jesus would begin teaching His disciples how He must needs suffer many things at the hands of and be rejected by the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people before being ultimately killed and crucified. It would be upon initially and first hearing such words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ that Simon called Peter would attempt to take Jesus aside and rebuke Him for the words He spoke concerning His suffering and death. Jesus would immediately speak unto Simon called Peter and rebuke him—and not only would He rebuke him, but he would also for the second time since His experience and encounter in the wilderness instruct and command Satan to get behind Him. It would be in the wilderness where Jesus would instruct and command Satan to get behind Him, for it was written that man shall worship the LORD and Him alone. Here in this passage we don’t find Jesus instructing and commanding Satan to get behind Him as it pertained to worshipping him, but rather Jesus commanding Satan to get behind Him because he was an offense to him as he did not savor those things which be of God, but those things which be of men. We must needs realize and understand how absolutely incredible and tremendous this truly is when we take the time to think about it, for there is something incredibly powerful about this exchange between Simon called Peter and Jesus, as it would be during this exchange Jesus would rebuke Satan and would once more command him to get behind Him and depart from Him. Jesus would emphatically declare unto Satan that he was an offense unto Him, and that he did not savor those things which be of God, but rather those things which be of men—something which we must truly understand when reading these words.

            I have to admit that I absolutely love the exchange which took place between Jesus and Simon called Peter, for it would be within and during this exchange Jesus would indeed and would in fact rebuke Satan and command him to get behind Him. Jesus would not and could not allow anything to hinder Him from the divine mission, purpose and assignment for which He had been sent to the earth. Jesus would not bow down before and unto Satan in the wilderness when He was offered all the kingdoms of the world and the glory therein, Jesus would ultimately resolve to drink the cup which the Father had placed before Him, and He would not and could not be altered, deterred and hindered from fulfilling that which the Father had ordained and appointed for Him. It was indeed written within the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah that the Messiah and Christ must needs suffer—and not only that the Messiah and Christ must needs suffer, but also that it would please the living God to cause the Messiah to suffer. Oh you cannot read the Old Testament without and apart from encountering a plethora of prophetic declarations concerning the Messiah and Christ, and how He must needs suffer. Jesus came into the earth knowing the work that was assigned before Him, as well as knowing and understanding that there was a great need before Him to drink the cup which the Father had prepared before Him. When Simon called Peter attempted to pull Him aside and rebuke Him concerning the mission and assignment Jesus would recognize and understand the presence of Satan in that moment and would rebuke and command Satan to get behind Him. Jesus would not and could not allow anyone to deter and hinder Him from stepping into and fulfilling that for which He had been commanded by and from His Father who was in heaven. Jesus knew and understand that He would indeed and would in fact be betrayed into the hands of sinners—and only into the hands of sinners, but also into the hands of the religious. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that the Lord Jesus Christ would indeed and would in fact be turned over and handed into the hands of religion before He would in fact be turned over and handed into the hands of sinners. It would be in the hands of sinners Jesus would ultimately be scourged before being crucified upon a cross between two thieves in the place of the skull.

            The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the words which are found immediately after Jesus would once more emphatically declare and proclaim unto the disciples that the Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and that they shall kill Him before He would rise from death to life on the third day. If you begin reading with and form the thirty-third verse of this passage you will find that as Jesus and the disciples drew near and came unto Capernaum Jesus would ask them what it was the disciples disputed while they were among themselves by the way. John Mark would continue and on to write how the disciples would hold their peace because they had disputed among themselves who should be the greatest. Pause for a moment and think about what such a discussion would indeed and would in fact be like as the disciples would hear Jesus once more teach and declare unto them how He must needs suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people, and would ultimately be killed. Immediately after that we find the disciples disputing among themselves who among them should indeed be the greatest—perhaps not only greatest among themselves, but also greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It’s incredibly interesting when you think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for John Mark would actually use the word “dispute” when speaking of the disciples and the discussion they had concerning who among themselves who should be the greatest. Stop and consider what it must have been like for the disciples to walk with the Word which was made flesh and dwelt among men, and yet they dared dispute among themselves who was indeed the greatest. I would love to know who sparked and who initiated the conversation, and what it must have been like as each of them might have given their own answer and explanation concerning who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Oh I do not believe that they would have argued and contended that another outside of themselves would indeed be the greatest, and that this dispute which was present before and among them would be about themselves and which one among them was the greatest.

            What so amazes me about the words which are found in the latter portion of the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by John Mark is that Jesus was well aware of the dispute which took place before and among themselves, and would even ask them concerning the dispute which took place before and among themselves. Not only this, but even after they held their peace—presumably because they were ashamed because of and at the dispute which had arisen among themselves—Jesus would call the disciples unto Himself and would declare unto them that if any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all. What’s more, is that not only would Jesus declare that whosoever would desire to be first must be last, but Jesus would also declare how that person must needs be servant of all. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how absolutely incredible and tremendous this truly is, for not only did Jesus not entertain the fact that there was one among themselves who was the greatest, but Jesus would also describe how those who desired to be first must needs be last of all and servant of all. Oh the words found here are truly necessary when you take the time to think about it, for there are a number of disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ who would argue and contend as to whether or not they are first, and whether or not they are the greatest, and yet there are very few among us who would actually dispute who was servant of all and who would argue who was last of all.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the fact that there are countless men and women who can and will argue, contend, and dispute among themselves who is the greatest, and such men and women woman can and will strive to be the greatest among themselves. There are those present within many of our churches who will not only dispute, argue and contend concerning those who might be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, but they can and will also seek to do that which they can to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Pause for a moment and think about the tremendous amount of time, work, effort and energy that is needed to not only be the greatest, and not only think that you’re the greatest, but also be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. For one to even remotely think about and consider that they are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven they need to devote and commit themselves to such a tremendous life of works as they will constantly be striving within themselves—and not only striving within themselves, but also contending with others that they might be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It isn’t enough to merely dispute who is the greatest within the kingdom of heaven, for with that dispute must also come examples that prove your case—and not only examples which prove your case, but also a continued endeavor and striving to do those things which would and could in fact make you great. When we have a discussion and dialogue about being the greatest in the kingdom of heaven we must needs realize and understand that to engage in such a dispute among and with others means that you by very nature will inherently esteem yourself above those around you. Should you or I engage in such a conversation, discussion and dispute concerning who is the greatest there is a great need for us within ourselves to esteem ourselves as greater than those before and around us, for we will seek to brag and boast of all those things which we have accomplished. Such bragging and boasting might very well have been at the very heart of those who would come unto the Lord Jesus Christ in that day and profess and proclaim “Lord, Lord,” and yet Jesus will speak and declare unto them that He never knew them because they were workers of iniquity  and did not do the will of the Father who was in heaven.

            This reality and concept of disputing who is actually the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is something which must needs be carefully considered, for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome and powerful truth that striving and contending to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven not only means you have to commit and devote yourself to a life of works, but it also means that you must by very nature esteem yourself as greater and above those before and around you. In fact, I would dare say that this is what is truly significant concerning and regarding Jesus’ response to the dispute of the disciples concerning who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, for Jesus would speak and declare unto them how that one who desired to be first would be last of all and servant of all. In order to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven the true and ultimate person one looks out for is not those before and around them, but themselves. Those who seek and strive to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven are those who have absolutely no room and no place within their hearts, their minds, and their lives for the needs of those before and around them. So long as you are one who seeks and strives to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven you can and will have no capacity to serve and be servant to those who are before and all around you. Seeking greatness within the kingdom of heaven means that you will relegate yourself to a life of works and a life of striving and contending—in most cases against the tide and upstream as there will be constant stress, tension and pressure to do more and to somehow be more. Oh if you are one who seeks and strives to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven you are one who continually lives in a place where you must needs live in a place where you must also do more than what you have done previously, to be better than you were previously, and to even receive accolades and praise from those who are before and around you.

            The words which are found in this passage of Scripture are absolutely astounding and remarkable when you take the time to think about and consider it, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that those who seek to be greatest in the kingdom are always those who must continually seek to do more, be more, and truly commit themselves to going above and beyond that which they had previously done. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it draws and calls our attention to the truth that those who seek to be greatest have absolutely no capacity within themselves to look after the cares of others before and around them, for at the very heart and center of their endeavors is themselves. Those who seek to be greatest have always and will always place themselves at the very forefront of their endeavors, pursuits, and that which they seek to accomplish and fulfill within the earth. It’s actually something worth thinking about and considering that the disciples—those who walked with Jesus for three and a half years—would and even could dispute among themselves who would and could even be the greatest. Pause for a moment and think about what would have to be present within your heart and mind to actually engage in a dispute with others concerning who was the greatest. Oh it’s one thing to actually strive to be the greatest, however, it is something else entirely and altogether to dispute with others concerning who is the greatest. What’s more, is that more often than not engaging in such a dispute must by very nature and necessity mean that you promote yourself above those before and around you. When you allow yourself to engage in a dispute concerning who is greatest you must needs not only place yourself at the very pinnacle and zenith of such a discussion, but you also demonstrate that within your heart those before and around you come second. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of the fact that those who are engaged in disputes and discussions concerning who is the greatest are those who have absolutely zero capacity to be servant before and servant among those who are present all around you. Those who argue, dispute and contend who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven are those who must by very nature of the argument itself commit themselves to being number one while others around them are number two and secondary. Oh it is with this in mind I invite you to consider the words which are found in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Philippian saints, as well as the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome:

            “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).

            “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, f any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strive or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His glood pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).

            As I bring this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that when we seek to strive to be great, to be greater, and to be greatest—not only are we by very nature of such an argument placing ourselves above and before others, but we are also considering and classifying others as being secondary. Oh even if we might very well commit ourselves to certain ministries, charities, organizations and the like, we are truly only serving ourselves rather than others. Oh would it shock and surprise you that you can be serving yourself while serving others? When we think about any desire and endeavor to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven we must needs recognize and understand that such an argument signifies and suggests that we are serving ourselves while saying and claiming we are serving others. Seeking and striving to be great is nothing more than serving ourselves while claiming and attempting to serve others. Oh it might very well be true that we might be serving among others, and yet the truth of the matter is that we are actually not serving others, but our serving ourselves. When we dispute among ourselves who is actually the greatest we are doing nothing more than serving among others while the ultimate person we are serving is ourselves. We cannot and must not miss and lose sight of how absolutely incredible and tremendous this truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that seeking and striving to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven can very mean and signify that while we might very well be serving among others we are not really interesting in serving them, for self has always and will always be at the very center and focus of what we are doing. Dear brother, dear sister—we must recognize and understand this dangerous and perilous trap of seeking to be great, greater, and even greatest in the kingdom of heaven, for when we seek and endeavor to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven we might very well be serving among others, and we might even consider ourselves serving others, and yet the truth of the matter is that we are truly serving ourselves. What’s more, is that we are actually just using others to serve ourselves and to advance our own agenda, our own plan and our own purpose. Not only this, but if those among us who we consider ourselves as serving somehow no longer fit into our endeavor of being great we discard and disregard them as expendable and no longer useful for our purposes and our intentions.

I feel absolutely compelled to emphatically declare and proclaim before and among us that we have a great and present need within our hearts and spirits to recognize and understand that when we seek to be great, greater, and greatest in the kingdom of heaven the needs of those we might profess to be serving are actually of no interest within our hearts and our minds, for we will place ourselves at the very center of our universe. Those who seek to be great, greater, and greatest in the kingdom of heaven are those who cannot ever look beyond themselves—even when they are serving among others—for they serve not to truly benefit those around them, but to benefit themselves as they seek to get themselves ahead above others. Oh we have a great and powerful need within our hearts and our spirits to deliver and remove ourselves from this dispute and this endeavor to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, for if we commit and give ourselves to being greatest among others we are actually demonstrating that we are at the very center of everything we do. What’s more, is that those who seek to be greatest have absolutely no room, nor do they have any capacity for the divine will of the Father, nor even an ability to partner together with the Father, the Son and the Spirit in the work and ministry of the kingdom. Oh that we would truly acknowledge this within our hearts and our lives, for when we seek and strive to be great, greater and greatest—not only do we ultimately serve ourselves before and above those around us, but we also have absolutely no room for the divine will, plan and purpose of the Father. Those who seek to be great, greater and greatest are entirely and altogether unable to partner together with and collaborate with the eternal Father in what He desires to accomplish within the earth, for they can and will always be about their own business rather than be about the Father’s business. If there is one thing we must needs understand it’s that so long as we seek to be great, greater and greatest within the kingdom we have absolutely no room to be about the Father’s business, nor seek the glory and honor of the Father, nor seek to accomplish and fulfill the divine will of the Father. Oh that we would be those within the earth who are truly willing to humble themselves that they might be servant of all and have absolutely no desire to be great, greater than others, or even greatest above and among those whom we walk and fellowship with in this life.

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