Mothering Sunday family service - Matthew 20:20-28

This is a family service talk by Nathan Buttery from the morning service on 21st March 2004.

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Now this morning I want to introduce you to the greatest arm wrestler this side of Clough Road. He claims to be unbeaten and unbeatable and he says that he is the greatest. He calls himself The Crusher and so I want to ask two people to come out and challenge this greatest of all arm wrestlers, and I'll need a boy and a girl. So here is challenger 1 (boy). Fails! Challenger 2 (girl)- Succeeds. Well congratulations to challenger 2- She is now the greatest arm wrestler this side of Clough Road!

Now today is Mothering Sunday, and today is a good day to thank God for Mums and to remember all the good things that Mums do for us. And this morning, because it is Mothering Sunday, I want to tell you a story about one mother in particular. The story comes from the Bible, from Matthew's gospel chapter 20, the reading we had earlier, so if you can turn to the story in your Bibles, that would be very helpful. And this Mum tried to do something very special for her children. Let me introduce you to her. (Acetate 1- Mum) Here she is. And she looks lovely, but I can tell you that she'd be the sort of Mum to give you a left hook with her handbag if you upset her! She was quite a woman. And this woman was married to a man called Zebedee. (Acetate 2- Zebedee) Now this was not the Zebedee of Magic Roundabout fame, it was another Zebedee. And Zebedee and his wife had two boys, who were both grown up and who were both fishermen. (Acetate 3- Fisherman) And these boys were called James and John. And James and John's Mum would have been very proud of her boys. She would have been proud of the boys as they got their GCSE's and A Levels from the Galilee College of Further Education. She would have been proud of them as they both passed their fishing boat driving exams, and she would have been proud that they had their own fishing business on the Sea of Galilee, (Acetate 4- Fishing business) with their friends Peter and Andrew. Mum was very proud of her boys, James and John. She thought her two boys were the greatest!

But in this story in Matthew's gospel, this mother meets someone who is going to give her a bit of a shock. Because actually she's going to find out that her boys aren't the greatest after all. Because when she meets Jesus, Jesus says something that will totally change her view of what it means to be the greatest. Now actually, I reckon if we are all very honest, most of us would say that we think we're something a little bit special. We're pretty proud of ourselves, and we might even say that we are the greatest. And like our arm wrestler at the start, we think that we are unbeatable. But when we come face to face Jesus, like this mum did all those years ago, we'll find that Jesus has something to say to us too which may well give us a bit of a shock. So let's read on in the story and find out what happened to this Mum as she met Jesus. And we'll discover two things:

1) What Mum Got Wrong!

2) What Mum Got Right!

1) What Mum Got Wrong!

(Acetate 5- Titles- Line 1 only) So first of all let's find out what Mum got wrong. Now I know it might come to you as a bit of a surprise, but sometimes Mums do get things wrong. They are not perfect. For instance, when it comes to buying birthday presents, sometimes Mums do very strange things. Now you might not think this if you're young, but you'll discover this as you get older that Mums buy you the strangest things for your birthday. I mean, imagine if you were me, and on your birthday, you discovered that your Mum had brought you this for your birthday! (Show broomstick!) I mean what was she thinking? I'm not even sure what's for! And when it comes to buying clothes, well here's a tip- don't let Mum do it after the age of about 15. Because it's all down hill from there! Because you end up with things like this! (Green socks!)

Yes, sometimes, Mums do wrong things. And in our story, James and John's Mum got something wrong. Let's find out what it was. (Acetate 6- Mum kneeling) It's in verse 20: "Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favour of him. 'What is it you want?' Jesus asked. She said, 'Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.'" Now what was this Mum asking from Jesus? Well she was asking that both her sons should have the top two positions in heaven with Jesus. She was asking that in Jesus' kingdom in heaven, one son should be the Prime Minister and the other son should be the Chancellor of the Exchequer. (Acetate 7- Proud Man) It was an amazing request. And why do you think she asked Jesus? Well I reckon it was because she thought her sons were the greatest and she wanted Jesus to give them the best seats in heaven! She thought her sons deserved to be in heaven with Jesus because they were great sons. I guess they were the sort of sons who cared for their Mum as she got older. They were perhaps well known and respected in the town. They might even have been very religious, going to Bible Club on Wednesdays, and their local church every Saturday. These were really good boys. Surely these two brothers would be heaven, in Jesus' kingdom, she thought? But Jesus says to her: "You don't know what you are asking!" You see this Mum had made a big mistake. She had totally misunderstood how people get into heaven. She thought she could ask Jesus for a favour, but Jesus will show her that that is not how it works at all! (Acetate 8- Beckham) It was as daft as me saying to David Beckham: "Listen Dave, can you let me have a go in the England football team- I mean I'm not that bad really. I'm very nice. I'm a vicar you know!" But I cannot get into the England team by a personal favour. No I have to make the grade. I have to be a brilliant professional footballer if I'm to get on the England team.

So why was their Mum so wrong about how to get into heaven? What did she misunderstand? Well she thought that her sons deserved to go to heaven. They were great and good and kind. Why shouldn't they go to heaven? But the Bible tells us that actually no-one deserves to go to heaven! Now that may come as a huge shock to many of us here this morning. I hear many people say that if you are good enough you will go to heaven. But the truth is that nowhere in the Bible does it say that good people go to heaven. And nowhere does Jesus ever say that if you are good enough you will go to heaven. And the reason is that none of us are good enough to heaven. Because the pass mark for getting into heaven is 100% goodness. (Acetate 9- Pass Mark 100%) In other words because God is perfect, then in order to be with him, we too need to be perfect. And surely no-one here will claim to be 100% perfect.

Now to help me illustrate this I need a helper. (Volunteer) And I'm going to ask this volunteer if he can swim very far? And in order to swim you'll need a pair of goggles and an inflatable ring. (Acetate 10- Map) Now how far do you reckon it is between Britain and America? And do you think you could swim from Britain to America? How far do you think you could get? Well of course the answer is not very far. And even if you were an Olympic swimmer you could never swim all the way to America. Both would need rescuing. And the Bible teaches us that no matter how good you are, even if you are as good as these two brothers in the story, you still won't get to heaven, because God's pass mark for heaven is 100%. And none of us can reach that score because we have all done things wrong, things which have hurt God and those we love. In fact, even worse, the Bible tells us we have actually totally ignored the God who made us and gave us many good things. And that was what Mum got wrong when she came to Jesus. She thought her sons were good enough for heaven, when in fact they weren't. And each one of us have the same problem.

2) What Mum Got Right!

(Acetate 5 again- Titles) But thankfully Mum did get something right that day. So let's see what it was. Because we might be thinking, "If no-one deserves to go to heaven because of what we have done, because we not kept God's standards, then is there a way for us to get to heaven?" Well there is, and it's all through Jesus. And that is what mum got right. Because although she asked Jesus the wrong question about getting her sons into heaven to have the top spots, yet she did do something right. And that was that she came to Jesus. She knew Jesus had the answer, but she just didn't ask the right question. What she should have said was: "Jesus, how can me and my boys get into heaven when we've let God and everyone else down so often?" But at least she got something right- she came to Jesus for help. And at the end of our passage Jesus gives us the answer we're looking for. Jesus how do we get into heaven if we are not good enough to go? (Acetate 11- Verse) He says in verse 28: "The Son of Man [I, Jesus] did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many."

Jesus says to this Mum that he came to die on a cross as a ransom for our sins. Now what does he mean by that? Well I will need one final volunteer to help me explain. (Acetate 12- Tied up person) Because a ransom is something that is paid when someone has been captured or kidnapped. You give a ransom price to set them free. And the Bible tells us that we are all captives. (Tie up volunteer) It's as if all the wrong things we have done against God has left us completely tied in a knot, and there is nothing we can do to escape. No matter what we do, no matter how many good works and nice things we try and do, we cannot get out of the situation we are in. We're trapped by our own wrong doing. In fact the Bible says we are slaves to our wrong doing. We just cannot help doing wrong, no matter how hard we try. We're helpless. And even worse is that because we have ignored God and pushed him away, then we will have to pay the price for that which is to die and then to be cut off from him for ever, a terrible thing to have to endure. So what help is there? Well remember that Jesus says he came to serve us and give his life as a ransom price. You see the price on our heads is death. But amazingly, Jesus Christ himself is willing to pay the ransom price to get us out of this terrible mess we have got ourselves in. And how did he do that? (Acetate 13- Cross). When he died on the cross, Jesus paid the ransom price so that we could be set free. It's as if he tore off the ropes around us and set us free. (Release volunteer). He died for us so we could go free! And that means we can be forgiven for all the wrong things we have done and we can be set free to live life the way God meant it to be lived, in friendship with him as our King and friend. (Acetate 14- Smile) And that is why Christianity is such good news because it tells us that there is a way of getting to heaven by trusting in what Jesus has done for us on the cross. So Christians aren't just nice or good people. Christians are forgiven people who have received that gift that Jesus is offering to everyone on the cross.

So as we finish this morning, (Acetate 15- Questions) I want to ask us two questions from this story about this Mum. First, do you still think you are good enough for heaven? Well this Mum found from Jesus that neither she nor her lovely boys were good enough for heaven and we too are in that same position. But the second question is will you trust Jesus' death on the cross so you can be forgiven, ransomed and set free and go to heaven. Because that is the only way you and I will get to heaven. And this very morning, Jesus' offer is open to everyone here. So why not pray with me now to accept Jesus' rescue and begin life with him, living as he meant us to live.

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