Isaiah 6:81NIV New International Version Translations
8 Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
The pulpit message that comes from these verses, come from the youth of our church. They are graduating, leaving their protected nests and embarking on what most adults would call life. It is the tradition of our church to let them speak, to share what they have learned in preparation for life’s journey. The Bible verses that they selected need a little expansion. So lets look at the background of Isaiah 6:1-8.
Verse 1: Uzziah was king of Judah for over 50 years. But his last years were unhappy (see 2 Chronicles 26:16-21). Human kings must die. But the Lord is King of Heaven. He will never die. In a vision, Isaiah sees a glimpse of the Lord’s great glory (magnificent appearance).
Verse 2: Isaiah sees wings covering the faces of the fiery angels, but not their ears, which are ready to hear God’s instructions. Wings also cover the angels’ feet. That seems to mean that the angels will obey God. They will go only where the Lord sends them.
Verse 3: The word ‘Holy’ is repeated three times to emphasize God’s absolutely pure nature.
Verse 5:In the presence of God, Isaiah now knows what holiness truly means. Isaiah realizes his own true wicked nature.
Verses 6-7: But God has work for Isaiah to do. Then one of the seraphim flew to Isaiah with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched Isaiah’s mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for. The angel convinces Isaiah that God has forgiven him and Isaiah is now able to do what God asks.
Verse 8: Isaiah is now fit to answer the call of our God, who is so holy. This is the desired actions that any church could hope for after its youth have grown up learning God’s commands and getting to know Jesus, the one who has removed their guilt forever. Therefore, their first and most important lesson is to know that God has called them to make a difference in the world and God has given them Jesus to help them with that journey.
Items for Discussion
- How do you think the focus on youth should change as they grow up in the church?
- What do they learn from mission trips?
- Why is the interaction of youth with the adults in a church so important?
- How can we keep youth connected to church as they journey through life?
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” 38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39 “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” 41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Peter, James, and John are Jesus’ inner circle. On several occasions, including the transfiguration (9:2-8) and the Garden of Gethsemane (14:32-42), Jesus has these three accompany him to the exclusion of the other disciples. Every parent hears, “Will you do something for me?”—and the wise parent determines what is being asked before agreeing. The way that James and John introduce their request of Jesus reflects the fact that they have some misgivings about even asking it. Keep in mind that Jesus has just told the disciples that he is going to Jerusalem to die (10:33-34). The disciples will later come to understand Jesus’ “glory” as having to do with His Passion.
Some interpretations of the prior verse 31 (“But many who are first will be last, and the last first”) as an implied rebuke of Peter and believe that James and John are taking that implied rebuke as an opportunity to gain advantage over Peter, who is the third member of Jesus’ inner circle. Whatever their motivation, it is clear that these brothers—the Sons of Thunder (3:17)—are seeking the two highest places of honor and have no room in their scenario to include Peter.
During Jesus’ time, people usually reclined on couches around a low table to eat at banquets or feasts. When James and John request to sit at Jesus right and left hands in His glory, they are imagining Jesus as a king sitting at a table with his chief advisors at his right and left hands.
It is probably hard to imagine how James and John could be so dense. so uncaring. Their request is wrong because “they (are) asking Jesus to fit into their plans” rather than trying to see how they might fit into Jesus’ plans, James and John have not only failed to hear Jesus’ prediction of his upcoming death, but they regard this journey to Jerusalem as a messianic march on the city to restore its former Davidic glory so that Jesus might assume the Davidic throne.
Jesus does not rebuke James and John. Instead, he asks a question designed to let them know that their question is headed in the wrong direction. While Jesus doesn’t go into specifics, His question conveys a hint that James and John have invited themselves into a place quite different than the one that they were contemplating. James and John know that Jesus has challenged them, and they pick up the gauntlet—accept the challenge —not understanding the consequences. Later, when Jesus is arrested, they won’t be so brave. Mark tells us, “All of (Jesus’ disciples) deserted him and fled” (14:50).
There is no reason to believe that the other disciples are angry because of James’ and John’s insensitivity to Jesus’ situation. The twelve responded to the second passion prediction by arguing among themselves who was the greatest (9:33-37). Now they are offended because they are contending for places of honor, and James and John are trying to steal the prize from under their noses. Jesus did not rebuke James and John, and He does not rebuke the twelve. Instead, He uses their behavior as a springboard for teaching. We can be sure that He has their full attention. James and John must be embarrassed at the exposure of their raw ambition. The other disciples are indignant, and will listen carefully to insure that Jesus addresses their concern. Instead, Jesus instructs them about the kingdom of God—its rules—how it works.
In the kingdom of God, honors will go to those who serve (Greek: diakonos—those who wait tables) rather than to those who exact service from others. First prize will go to the “bondservant of all”—a slave (doulos)—inferior even to a servant (diakonos)—an absurd proposition, but fully in keeping with Jesus’ recent statement that “If any man wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all”(9:35).
Jesus calls us to a different ethic, telling us that God honors service rather than power. He challenges us to begin living by Kingdom Rules in the here-and-now. It is a tough sell—and a lesson that the church must continually re-learn. The drive for promotions or appointment to a high position or office might very well be called the number one enemy of the Christian church. Every denomination, congregation and pastor is tempted to look out for Number One instead of serving kingdom needs. We are tempted by grand titles, vestments, and churches—tempted to preach the word that sells instead of the faithful word. Personal ambition did not start with James and John, nor did it end with them. It is alive and well in the world today.
Jesus does not require more than He is willing to give. He modeled service and sacrifice from cradle to grave. While in the form of God, He “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” The Jewish people were accustomed to a sacrificial system in which sacrificial animals atone for the sins of the people. Now Jesus says that He will give His life as a ransom for many. In those few words, Jesus introduces a new theology of atonement that separates Christianity from all other religions.
Items for Discussion
- Everyone wants to either be great or do something great. Is that bad? Why or why not?
- What advice, from your personal observations or experiences, would you give the youth with regard to these verses?
- It is difficult to understand how James and John could fail to hear Jesus’ clear prediction of his passion—except that Christians today often hear what they want to hear instead of listening to Jesus’ words about cross-bearing. What are some examples?
- How does a traditional church remain relevant to contemporary youth?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations