The Dignity of Service
St. Mark X. 17-46.
"The Son of Man came . . . to serve,
and to give His life."
ICTURE scene of last Sunday's Lesson—crowd round our
Lord—child in His arms. "Suffer little children," etc.
Outside the crowd on the road; a young man walking up
and down—restless, eager—waiting to speak his earnest
question. What question? Was he satisfied with himself,
like the Pharisees? Point out how lovable he was; and
yet deep in his heart the feeling that he lacked
something. What? Right desires? Earnestness? Humility?
Belief in God? No. (Let children prove that he had
Like doctor probing and questioning, Christ treats him
to find out for him his lack. First rejects the
careless, superficial use of word "good." "You call me
good. Why? Is it that you believe I am God? God only is
entirely good; entirely able to satisfy your desire for
good." Now next question? Answer? (v. 19).
Was it true? Yes. But you might keep from lying, and killing,
and stealing, and cheating without real religion. What is
The reaching out of the heart towards God;
the willingness to do everything for God's sake and
righteousness' sake. Had he that? Yet he had a desire
for it, and it touched our Lord deeply.
(See v. 21). He
looked into his heart, saw his striving for better
things—his desire for highest, noblest life. Then with
his great love for him, He saw that only one terrible
test would show him his lack. It was an awfully hard
test for a rich, prosperous young man, the favourite of
the world. "Give up all and become a beggar, and
follow me!" Like a surgeon risking dangerous
operation, the only chance for his patient. Would it
have been worth giving up all to follow Christ? What
would he have got in exchange? The joy of
self-sacrifice—of religion—of the favour and approval
of Christ, and therefore of his own conscience. In a
few months after hundreds did it: Acts iv. 34-37. He
was just on the brink of gaining all this, and being
happy for ever. Lord watched him. What would he do? His
eternal life depended on it? Alas! he failed.
But also he learned his lack of real religion. His
question was answered. May we not hope that he came
back again to Christ!
Then the Lord, with sad heart, and disappointed for
this young man, told His disciples of the dangers of
riches, and the grandeur of service for His sake and
the Gospel's. (Question closely on passage
Explain "needle's eye." Gates of towns had little
side-gates called "eye of needle," through which only
passengers could pass. Camel might push through if
beaten hard, or very hungry, but could not carry his
load through.) In v. 30, tell children the joy of
giving up all to go and serve as Christ's messengers to
the heathen. It may be that this Lesson may be used to
send some out from this old Church in like manner
to those children of Ireland, who in the olden days
were the greatest missionaries of Europe.
Now (vv. 32-35) He exemplifies
the dignity of service
in Himself. How trivial are riches and applause of men
in Christ's view. The glory of life to Him was not
riches, or comfort, or applause. No, but service. To
serve men and suffer for them. To suffer what?
(v. 33-34). Wonderful picture.
Group of men on the road to
Jerusalem—He, the leader, in front, going straight up
to be crucified, with the firm resolve in heart, and
the glory of self-sacrifice so appearing in His look,
so that they were amazed. Felt how grand He was—how far
above them. (Caution—Don't be too high flown or over
children's heads in talking of this dignity of service.
Illustrate from their own lives. Or rather, get them to
illustrate by making them remember the pleasure in their
own hearts of little deeds of nobleness and unselfish
service of others.)
(2) The Lord disappointed in young ruler. Again
disappointed now. After this beautiful teaching about
self-sacrifice, see James and John, and their mother.
See Matthew xx. 20. They were His relatives, and thought
they could come behind the backs of the others and ask
favours. What? What was wrong in request? How does it
show they had not rightly learned Christ's teaching?
What does He say? (v. 38).
Meaning of this? Did they
know that He meant suffering? Yes; He had just told
them (v. 33). What did they reply?
So they were brave
fellows, and willing to suffer for Him; but they wanted
to be put highest in glory above the others. If they
had really Christ's spirit in them, what would the
request be? "Lord, grant us to serve, to be of use in
Thy Kingdom, even if it be in the lowliest place." Was
the Lord vexed? No. He saw the good in them, as well as
the evil. He knew that in the days to come they, like
Himself, would know the glory of self-sacrifice. So He
answered kindly. Did He promise the thrones? What?
for sake of Christ and
Gospel. These He thought better than thrones. One day
they, too, thought it. For the Lord's prophecy was
fulfilled—how? James executed (Acts xii. 2). John
exiled and martyred.
Still more disappointment? (v. 41).
Why indignant? Did
the Lord notice it? Yes. Think how disappointing to
Him, with all His noble, beautiful thoughts, to have as
His closest companions men who could not enter into His
feelings at all. Here were they again disputing. Same
disease of ambition and self-seeking was in them all.
See how kindly He bears with them. Think how His words
would draw out all that was good in them. "True
greatness," He says, "such as I am following, is to be
reached by the way of humility and the lowly service of
others. I came to earth not to be"—what? Meaning of
"to minister"? The ambition of men is to have many
servants—the ambition of Christ was? To serve. Motto of
the Princes of Wales, "I serve." What a glory it would
give their lives if really followed their motto as
Christ did. That was the glory He sought; and He goes
on to tell the very height of that glory—what? "And to
give His life." What a lovely world Heaven must be when
that is the object of aim and ambition. To serve
others. To give His life for others. Pray: "Lord, help
me to understand Thee, to adore Thee, to follow Thee in
my own lowly way in the ambition of service."