Many of you may not know or remember this name, but some of you old-time baseball fans may remember the name Tony Kubek. Tony Kubek is a member of one of our WELS congregations who long ago was a professional baseball player for the New York Yankees for about ten years and then a sports broadcaster for over twenty years, including many of those years being one of the lead broadcasters for NBC TV. The reason I mention him is because today’s lesson reminded me of the time I first met Mr. Kubek at a special anniversary event being held at our pastor-training college, at which I was supposed to go over and introduce myself to him and welcome him and his wife to our celebration. I consider myself someone who enjoys meeting people and who normally does not have any problem talking to people, but when the person introduced me to Tony Kubek, I just absolutely froze. I couldn’t get anything to come out of my mouth, with the silence of what seemed to be five minutes thankfully finally being broken by the kindness of Mr. Kubek, who said, “Hi,” and then looking at my name tag, said, “Nice to meet you, Dave,” to which I finally replied with a depth of college sophistication with a halting voice,“Nice weather we’re having.” I was speechless before a normal man…
Do you think we could say the disciples in our Gospel reading were speechless before the Son of Man? Did you notice two different times where St. Mark tells us the normally very talkative disciples didn’t say a word? Right after Jesus told his disciples that he as the Son of Man was going to be killed and then rise to life, what does verse 32 at the end of the first paragraph tell us: “But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.” And then after Jesus asked his disciples what they had been arguing about when they had been arguing along the road, what does verse 34 at the end of the second paragraph tell us: “But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.”
Wouldn’t you and I have been the same way – aren’t you and I often the same way? Speechless before the Son of Man! Let’s let God’s Word for today help us think that through by applying those two reactions of the disciples to our own lives.
At least once before Jesus had told his disciples that he, the Son of Man, was going to suffer horrible things, but this seems to be the first time he specifically introduced those sufferings by saying he was going to be “betrayed.” Betrayed! Betrayal comes from someone you thought was on your side. How could the Son of Man be betrayed? And more than that — those disciples must have been thinking — he is again talking about someone killing him – and then being raised to life!? It is clear that this kind of talk was more than their minds would allow them to take in, just as you and I may have experienced at some point in life when some news came to us that we just could not comprehend and, therefore, at first perhaps did not even believe it could be true.
But what is true about our need to be speechless before the Son of Man when we hear Jesus talk about what he said was going to happen to him – and what we know did happen to him? For one thing what has to make us speechless when thinking about what Jesus did is the realization that we are the ones who did it to him. He was being punished for our sin; he was bearing our iniquity; he was suffering the death we deserved. We can only be speechless when thinking about any thought of defending ourselves – I’m not really that bad of a person, Son of Man. We can only be speechless about any thought of justifying ourselves – At least I didn’t do what I really wanted to do, Son of Man. We can only be speechless about any thought of excusing ourselves – How can you expect me to hold my temper that long, Son of Man, when that person obviously had it coming all the way. It’s that speechlessness that can only lead to a halting voice of repentance and regret, “Dear Lord Jesus, Son of Man, I am so sorry for what this man, this woman, this boy, this girl – what I have done — to cause what was done to you.”
But we also know that what was done to Jesus leaves us speechless for another reason. He wanted to do it. He was determined to do it. He wanted to make sure to do it, because he wanted us to know how much he loves us. If you have ever experienced the profound love of someone in your life, it might have left you speechless to think of their care, their protection, their generosity, their selflessness, their joy in serving you. What about all that with Jesus Christ, the Son of Man! Doesn’t it just have to leave you speechless that the Son of Man who is also the Son of God would love you that much — and so much more? No matter how much I know how true it is that I caused the suffering and death of the Son of Man, I can also know how true it is that the suffering and death of the Son of Man was done for me – and was done for me because God loves me – and was done for me so that I can know that whatever else may ever happen to me in my life cannot take me away from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord. It might be with a trembling voice – it might be a shout of praise – but our speechlessness at the grace of God in being so good to us can only give way to say what we sang in the hymn before our sermon,
“Lord of glory, you have bought us With your lifeblood as the price.
Never grudging for the lost ones That tremendous sacrifice.
Give us faith to trust you boldly, Hope, to stay our souls on you;
But, oh, best of all your graces, With your love our love renew.”
And then, so suddenly, after the praise, doesn’t the speechlessness come back? We barely make our way out of church and I am confounded by how weak I am. As the disciples walked on their way with Jesus, they argued about how great they were. The word used there for arguing gives the very definite impression that it wasn’t just arguing about who was the greatest – it was listing reasons about why it was they should be considered the greatest, maybe even like little children might argue, “Jesus loves me more than you-ou… Jesus talks to me more than you-ou… Jesus trusts me more than you-ou…” How interesting that in a few moments Jesus would have a little child be the object lesson about how to keep from speaking in such a spiritually childish, objectionable way.
We obviously don’t know what they were arguing about, but some of the preceding events give a couple of possible clues to help us think about it for ourselves. Could it have been jealousy or arrogance? After all, who were the only ones who were allowed to see Jesus raise a little boy from the dead, and who were the only ones who had just experienced the Transfiguration of Jesus on that mountain where they got to see a glimpse of the Son of Man’s glory as the Son of God and got to see Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus? Only Peter, James and John. Or could it have been overconfidence and a thought that they were the ones with the power to do the special miracles Jesus allowed them to do? After all, just moments before Jesus told them that he was going to suffer and die in our lesson, the disciples were befuddled as to why they couldn’t drive out a demon from a poor little boy, and Jesus did it in two seconds with the power of his word. Jesus told them, “This kind can only come out by prayer.” In other words, disciples, look to the power of God, not your own power, for the ability to do the miracles that I have told you you would be able to do in my name.
Whatever their arguing was about, don’t you and I have to admit that puffing ourselves up – listing reasons, at least in our own mind, as to why we have a reason to puff ourselves up – is a very powerful temptation to lead us to think that we are the greatest, even if on the outside we never would give anybody the impression that we think we are the greatest? What a joy, then, again, to know that what the Son of Man did in giving himself for my sins also is also my motivation to give of myself in service to others, precisely because I know I am not better than anyone else, and because I want to show my love for Jesus by being, as Jesus here said, “the servant of all.”
And then Jesus took that little child in his arms and said, “Show you are the servant of all by showing love to these little children in my name, because when you do that, you are welcoming – you are showing love – to me – and you are showing love to the one who sent me on the mission to show our love for you.” What a reason that gives us, doesn’t it, to look at every single person in our lives as a little child, to whom we would never want to be mean or unkind – to look at every single person in our lives as a little child, whom we want to treat tenderly and kindly and humbly and compassionately and simply lovingly. And do that, as the Son of Man says, “in Jesus’ name” – showing what Jesus means to us because of what he has done for us in the way we live – and love – for others.
Speechless before the Son of Man? Because of our sins? Yes. Because of his love. An even greater Yes – especially when we know that the Son of Man will never be speechless when it comes to serving and loving us. Sometimes in the perplexities and hurts of life we can barely speak what amounts to saying, “Nice weather we’re having” as we sometimes seek to just get by and survive. But through the work of the Son of Man, who knows our name even without a name tag, we can trust his promise when he says, “Nice eternity you’re having, so start enjoying it – and start living it – now.” That is love that can only leave us speechless – and at the same time give us every reason to sing — so let’s now rise to sing our praise! Amen.