The Least Among You, Part III (Mark 9:41-42)

The Least Among You, Part III (Mark 9:41-42)


I.) The Love of God in Christ

We are in a text this morning that ought to cause all of us in Christ to stop and examine our relationships with each other and other believers. Do not leave here today without considering the weighty implications of this text upon your lives.

God’s love for believers is magnified here:

We see a blessing for anyone who humbles themselves, and cares for someone who is for Christ:

“He shall not lose his reward.”[1]

We see a warning upon anyone who causes someone who is for Christ to stumble in sin:

“It would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the see.”[2]

Again, do not leave here today without considering the weight of this text upon your lives. The God we serve is “a consuming fire, a jealous God.”[3] He loves His people, and He desires them to love Him with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength.[4] He then desires His people to love one another out of their love for Him, which is produced by His love for them.

His love toward us is proved in Christ, in that while we were still sinners, He died for the ungodly by becoming:[5]

“Sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”[6]

He purchased us with His blood by atoning for our sin against Him, and bearing the wrath we were due.[7] He made us, who were dead, “alive together with Christ…by grace you have been saved through faith).”[8] He indwells those whom He has drawn to salvation and sanctifies them into Christ’s image.[9]

Never underestimate the love God has for you who are trusting in Christ:

“Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[10]

God loves His people. His people are  those who became like “little ones who believe” in His name and follow Him.


II.) God is One with His People

God’s love for His people was established in the beginning of the Scripture when He says to Abram:

“I will make you a great nation…I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.”[11]

He proved His love for Abraham’s descendants when He delivered them from Egyptian slavery.[12]

By Moses, He spoke to Pharaoh saying:

“Let My people go…but Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.’”[13]

God brought His people out from under the burdens of the Egyptians and delivered them from bondage, and redeemed them with:

“An outstretched arm and with great judgments.”[14]

He destroyed those who trampled upon the people He loved.

In His love for them, He took them to be His people that He would be their God; and that they would know that He is the Lord God who saved them.[15]

As Savior, He brought them to the land which He swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and give it to them as a possession.[16]

As their God and Savior, He dwelt among them.[17]

He delivered His people from the bondage of slavery so they could worship Him as He dwelt among them as their God.

Q.) What was His relationship with them likened to?

A.) A Husband and a wife:

“For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord of Hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth.”[18]

His being the husband of His people means He is one with them.

2.) Listen to what He says in relation to such unity:

“He who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.”[19]

Apple here refers to the pupil of the eye. This means that harming God’s people is equivalent to sticking a finger into the eye of God.

Q.) What is the principle laid out?

A.) God is intimately united with His people, and you cannot separate them from their God.


III.) God’s Life is Bound With His People

The reason this text carries so much weight is because Jesus laid out this principle in the beginning:

“Whoever receives one child like this in my name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”[20]

How you treat a Christian is how you treat Christ, for Christ is one with His people:

1.) He is the vine we are the branches.[21]

2.) He is the foundation we are the building.[22]

3.) He is the head we are the body.[23]

4.) He is the husband we are the wife.[24]

To somewhat grasp this, remember that Jesus has taken a little child to illustrate the need for humility. Children are the perfect example of humility because they are: powerless, dependent, vulnerable, and incapable of any contribution. They depended entirely on someone else.

Unless you humble yourself before God to the situation of a child you will never enter His Kingdom. One who humbly acknowledges their utter inability, and depends entirely upon the ability of Christ will enter God’s Kingdom.

Q.) What does God do with a sinner who acknowledges they are completely dead before Him in sin, and incapable of conjuring up life in themselves?

A.) He gives them His life.

This means when living among other believers:

1.) We are not merely mingling with flesh and blood.

2.) We are not merely living among those who have been born again into God’s family.

3.) We are living among those whom God has given Himself to, and caused them to live with His life.

4.) We are living among those whose very bodies the Living God has made His temple.

God’s life is bound with His people.

He has saved us from the bondage of sin that we may be His people and He may be our God. He has called us out to worship Him as living sacrifices in light of His redemptive work wrought in Christ. He does not merely dwell among us, but within us.

The essence of the gospel is about the Living God giving His life to dead, depraved, undeserving dust. We are not a people bound to some religious system, but the people united to the Living God:

1.) “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”[25]

2.) “You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”[26]

We are one with Christ.


IV.) Inextricably Linked With Christ

It is this amazing truth that ought to draw us to the seriousness of His lesson:

“For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”[27]

Jesus is not talking about works which lead to eternal life and eternal death in this portion. The reward here means to be paid for service.[28] The disciples desired to know which of them was the greatest in the kingdom of God. Jesus tells them greatest of all is the one who is least of all and “servant of all.”[29] Whoever dies to self in humility and cares for other believers necessities shall be considered great:

“He shall not lose his reward.”

They have not only humbled themselves to serve a “follower of Christ,” they have served Christ Himself for His life is bound with His people. How you treat a Christian is how you treat Christ, for He is untied to them:

“’Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine (Believers), even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”[30]

Saul of Tarsus was going around consenting to the imprisonment and murder of believers, and Jesus says to Him:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me…I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”[31]

He is in the Father, we are in Him, and He is in us. Christ is inextricably linked with His people. You cannot separate Christ from them, or them from Christ, for they are now one.


V.) The Severity of Sin

The Living God’s unity with believers through Christ is what emphasizes His next point:

“And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” [32]

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble…” He is clearly talking about believers by saying, “little ones who believe.” To cause a believer to stumble means to entrap them, or to trip them up, or to entice them to sin.[33] Whoever causes a believer to sin:

“It would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”

Listen:

Q.) What is His point?

A.) You are better off dead then to lead into sin a person whom God’s life is bound to.

You are better off having a 3500lb stone hung around your neck, which will make it impossible for you to escape as you are thrust into the sea.

You are better off dying an isolated and horrifying death via suffocation at the oceans base then to lead into sin a believer whom Christ dwells.

Q.) Why the severity?

A.) Christ not only loves His people, He is inextricably linked to them in perfect unity.

When you cause a believer to sin, you are dragging Christ, the Holy Son of God, through such debauchery. The best thing that could possibly happen to those who do such a thing would be for them to experience a horrible and inescapable death.

Three ways someone can be found guilty of doing this: directly, indirectly, or sinful example.

You are better off dead if you directly entice another believer into sin: Sexual Immorality, Idolatry, Lying, Gossip, Slander, Strife, Drunkenness, etc.[34]

You are better off dead if in your careless practice of Christian liberty you indirectly lead another believer to sin against their conscience, or to resent you.[35]

You are better off dead if by your sinful example, and indifference to the Holiness of God, those around you follow suit in your destructive life.

Fathers and mothers, Husbands and Wives, brothers and sisters, family and friends, Employers and employees, neighbors and strangers; Stop and consider the life you are leading before the watching world, and ask yourself:

“Does my life draw those around me to the holiness, and the righteousness, and the truth of Christ, or does it entice them to sin against Him?”

John Macarthur says:

“Instead of seducing people to sin, lead them to righteousness. Instead of causing them to be provoked or exasperated, cause them to be joyous and full of praise. Instead of setting an example of sin, set an example to holiness. Instead of misusing your liberty, use your liberty rightly so that they grow and are nurtured.”[36]


VI.) Love God, Love Each Other

Do not leave here today without considering the implications this text has on your life in regards to how you treat His people. We are to love one another as Christ has loved us:[37]

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit…we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him…We love because He first loved us.”[38]

Love for God will lead to love for each other. A.W. Pink says:

“One sin leads to another. Failure in our love to God always results in failure in our love to our neighbor.”

A love for God will draw us to humbly care for our brothers and sisters in Christ, for we know we are not just serving a Christian, we are serving Christ. Yes, we will care for them physically, but such a love and understanding calls us to a higher priority. That highest priority will not be our relationship with each other, but with each other’s relationship with God.

Do not lose your reward! If, after and honest evaluation you recognize that you would be better off thrust into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck, turn to God:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”[39]

He is in the Father, we are in Him, and He is in us.


[1] Mark 9:41b

[2] Mark 9:42b

[3] Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24

[4] Matthew 22:37

[5] Romans 5:6,8

[6] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[7] Romans 5:9; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 2:24

[8] Ephesians 2:5,8

[9] Romans 8:28-29

[10] Romans 8:38-39

[11] Genesis 12:2-3

[12] Genesis 15:13-14

[13] Exodus 5:1-2

[14] Exodus 6:6

[15] Exodus 6:7

[16] Exodus 6:8

[17] Exodus 29:45

[18] Isaiah 54:5

[19] Zechariah 2:8b

[20] Mark 9:37

[21] John 15:5

[22] 1 Corinthians 3:10-11

[23] Ephesians 1:22-23

[24] Revelation 19:7-10

[25] John 14:20

[26] Colossians 3:3-4

[27] Mark 9:41

[28] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 3408 (Misthos)

[29] Mark 9:35

[30] Matthew 25:34-40

[31] Acts 9:4-5

[32] Mark 9:42

[33] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 4624 (Skandalizo)

[34] Romans 1:29-32; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9

[35] Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8

[36] John MacArthur; Sermon, The Danger of Causing a Christian to Sin

[37] John 13:34; 15:12

[38] 1 John 4:10-19

[39] 1 John 2:1

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