National Lutheran Schools Week 2021
January 31, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
The elementary classroom teacher gives a thorough explanation of the significance and location of the subject and verb in the sentence. Immediately after the explanation, a student gives a blank look to the teacher. “Don’t you get it?” The same thing happens at seminary level, as a professor teaches Greek or Hebrew, traces the complex development and explanation of some nuance of theology, with a blank look from the student. “Don’t you get it?” The question also comes up in the home when the clearly defined family rules or expectations have again been violated. “Don’t you get it?” In addition, the question has been asked personally and painfully when a heartache or struggle is not understood by a spouse, friend or fellow parishioner. “Don’t you get it?”
The question could well summarize the response that Jesus might have had at the interaction with His disciples and the mother of the sons of Zebedee in our Gospel lesson. Jesus has repeatedly taught His disciples about His mission. Matthew’s Gospel notes three specific conversations. Following the “who do people say that the Son of Man is?” question (Matt. 16:13) and Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16), we are told, “From that time Jesus began to show HHHis disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things… and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (v. 21). Shortly after Jesus’ Transfiguration, as we heard about last Sunday (Matt. 17), Jesus again shares a similar message (Matt 17:22–23). Then again, in the days before the Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, Jesus continues to teach His disciples. Jesus is very clear as to why they will be journeying to Jerusalem: “And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death” (Matt. 20:18). Jesus continues with details about the emotional and physical agony of His journey.
Hopefully, the disciples would begin to understand the purpose and gravity of what Jesus has come to do. However, rather than asking additional questions or offering support, the disciples are immediately distracted by an interaction with the mother of the sons of Zebedee. She asks, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at Your left, in Your kingdom” (v. 21). The disciples get caught up in the conversation, “and when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.” In their jealousy, they wanted similar positions in Jesus’ kingdom. They were more concerned about themselves than their Lord and Master. Didn’t they get it?
Before we become too judgmental of the mother and disciples, we must reflect and confess that often we, too, don’t get it. We don’t get the reality of our sin. We identify with the disciples as we seek our own prideful places in the kingdom. Surely, we are more worthy of recognition than others. Certainly, our service in church, school, home and other contexts deserves some reward. Jesus told the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1–16) who felt they deserved greater reward because of their longer and more faithful service in the kingdom. Rather than celebrating Jesus’ grace, we seek our own glory. Yet God’s Law would have us “get” that we are sinful in thought, word and deed, and deserve no place in His kingdom.
The Good News is that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). The Son of Man was willing to leave the right hand of His Father’s kingdom to take on human flesh. Jesus demonstrated greatness by associating with little children, healing lepers, responding to the pleas of fathers and mothers for their sick and dying children, sitting in the living rooms of thieving tax collectors and other sinners, and washing feet. Jesus journeys to the cross, fulfilling every detail of God’s plan of salvation. He was willing to be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and to be condemned to death and delivered to be mocked, flogged and crucified. Jesus served as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. So that His service might be the sufficient and final payment received by all who believe, He was raised on the third day.
The message of Christ’s death and resurrection is the message that Lutheran schools have shared with children and families for generations. Like the disciples, we get distracted from Jesus’ message individually and collectively. Lutheran schools seek to offer an excellent education, a safe and thriving environment, a variety of activities, and other aspects of education in today’s complex and demanding world. However, Lutheran schools are unique and critical because of the message that Jesus came “to give his life as a ransom for many.” That’s the message that Lutheran school students are baptized into. That’s the message taught and lived every day in the classroom. The world may not “get” our message, for it is only understood and believed by faith, but our mission is to share the work of our servant Savior. Lutheran school students will not “get” every language arts, mathematics or science lesson taught. They may not even get every explanation in Luther’s Small Catechism. However, we pray that through the Spirit’s work and blessing, they believe Jesus served them through His suffering, death and resurrection, and as a result, they seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given unto them.
We, who have received the bounty of God’s love through the Means of Grace, are sent to serve. The message of our sinful nature, the temptation of Satan and the encouragement of the world is “serve me.” Again, we identify with Jesus’ disciples and say, “Put me next to You on Your throne.” Parents desire, “Serve my child first.” Everyone seems to suggest, “What about my rights?” Certainly, fairness and justness are godly and necessary, but we are not to live in the ways according to the world. But Jesus says, “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).
Today, we praise God for the many servants who are part of our Lutheran school ministry. We praise God for the opportunity to serve our community in this way. We are blessed with great teachers, great staff, great volunteers, great pray-ers, and the great support of many. The greatness is measured in a faithful response to God’s grace. We are sent to serve our community in Jesus’ name, sent to serve children and families, sent to be servants of our God who serves.
This sermon was modified by one provided by the LCMS for Lutheran School’s Week 2021.