My children’s sermon on Mark 10:35-45 has taken longer than I’d intended. It’s a complicated week.
The good news is that this week’s lectionary Gospel is one coherent story with some funny bits. (You can find my ‘Monday Meditation’ on the same passage here.)
At least they are funny to me. You never know with the Bible. Some people don’t think there are any funny bits. Others, like Thomas C. Willadsen, whom I met this summer at Synod School (sort of family camp for midwestern Presbyterians) see it every where.
You can check out his book on Amazon through this affiliate link–though be prepared for some cuss words.
It is possible, I think, to present both the funny parts and the more sober parts in kid-friendly ways.
My children’s sermon on Mark 10:35-45 ended up including one metaphor in the explanation that I put in Jesus’ mouth. Let me know whether you think kids would get the point in the discussion of dessert or not!
A Children’s Sermon on Mark 10:35-45
Good morning kids! I’m so glad you’re here today. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
I wonder if you’ve ever wanted something really badly? I wonder if you’ve ever asked God to help you get what you wanted? I know I have.
Well, in the Bible, Jesus’ friends sometimes asked for things too. Let me tell you about one time when James and John really wanted something special.
James and John were brothers. One day they were talking about what they really really wanted.
James said “It’s kind of funny. I used to always think about what I wanted right here, and right now. You know—a new fishing boat, or a nice house.”
John said, “Me too! But, since we’ve been traveling around with Jesus, it seems like those things don’t matter as much to me.”
James said, “I know! Jesus helped me see that what really matters is the kingdom of God.”
John said, “Yeah. The kingdom of God is gonna totally last longer than a new boat.”
“Yeah,” James said, “like forever.”
Then they thought for a minute.
“So you know,” said James, “We really need to think about that. We need to make sure we have a good situation in heaven—like forever.”
“How are we gonna do that?” asked John.
“I know!” said James. “Let’s ask Jesus to work it out.”
Talking to Jesus
So, James and John went up to Jesus.
“Can we talk to you for a minute?” John asked.
“Sure, guys,” said Jesus. “What do ya want to talk about?”
“It’s kind of private,” said John. “Could you maybe come over here with us?”
“Okay,” said Jesus, and the three of them left the other ten apostles and found a quiet spot to talk.
When they got there Jesus asked, “What’s up?”
“Um,” started James, “We wanted to ask you for something,”
“Sure. What were you going to ask for?” asked Jesus, “I’m always happy to hear what’s on your minds.”
“Um…” started James, “John, maybe you should be the one to ask.”
James knew that John and Jesus were especially close friends.
“Okay,” said John. And he took a big deep breath and blew it out again. Suddenly he was kind of embarrassed to ask Jesus for help.
“Well, Jesus,” John said, “It’s like this. We want to ask you for something only you can really help us with.”
“Okay,” said Jesus. “What is it?”
“Well, first,” said John, “we need you to promise something.”
Jesus raised one of his eyebrows. “Oh?” he asked. “What do you want me to promise?”
“Before we tell you what we really want,” said John, “you need to promise that you’re going to do whatever we ask.”
Then he laughed. “Interesting,” said Jesus with a smile. “Tell me, guys, why would I make you a promise like that?”
James and John looked at each other. They seemed a little surprised by the question. Finally they shrugged their shoulders. “Because you like us?” they asked.
“Oh, I see,” said Jesus. “Well, yeah, I do like you. I really love you. But I’m not going to promise to do whatever you want even before you tell me what you’re going to ask.”
“Why not?” James asked.
“Think of it this way,” said Jesus. “Remember when you were little? Say your mom made a really special desert for a big family party. Would she let one of you eat the whole thing, all in one sitting?”
“No,” they said.
“What?” asked Jesus. “Not even if you asked really nicely?”
“No,” they said again.
“Why not?” Jesus asked,
“Um,” said John, “I guess it might not be good for us?”
“Yeah,” said James. “I think we might have gotten kind of sick to our stomachs.”
“Plus,” said John, “there wouldn’t be any left for the party.”
“Okay,” said Jesus. “Same reason. So, no promises. But tell me what you were wanting to ask me for.”
“Well,” said James, “We were hoping you could do us a little favor.”
“A favor,” said Jesus. “What kind of favor?”
“I think it should be pretty easy,” James said. “It’s kind of in the future. But—oh, you ask him, John, You’re better with words than me.”
“Okay,” said John. “We were thinking about heaven. You know. Like after we die? Well when you get set up in your big throne room, we want you to give us the best seats.”
“Yeah,” said James. “We want to be sitting right beside you. Like, I’ll be on your right, and John can be on your left.”
“No!” said John, “I want to be on his right. You can be on his left.”
“But you said—”
“Hold it, guys,” Jesus said. “Just wait a minute. I’m glad I didn’t make that promise. You see, I don’t get to decide who sits beside me in heaven. My father has that all worked out. But you know what I think?”
“What?” they asked.
“I think you guys just want to become something great,” Jesus said. “Well, there’s only one way to become great in the Kingdom of God.”
“What’s that?” John asked.
“Help other people,” Jesus said. “The greatest person of all is the one who’s the most helpful.”
“Hey,” said James, “It sounds like you want us to act like servants! I’m not sure I like that.”
“Well,” said Jesus, “that’s exactly how it works. Serve others. Do you still want to become great?”
- I wonder if Jesus was surprised when James and John asked him to promise to do whatever they asked for?
- I wonder how James and John felt when Jesus wouldn’t promise to do whatever they asked?
- I wonder what you might do to help and serve other people this week?
- I wonder what it feels like to be great in that way?
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