#9   (The 12 Disciples Series)




TEXT:      Mark l5:4O-16:3;   Matt. 20:20-28;   25:31-40


INTRO:    Oh how we all want to be special, popular, or famous!  It was no different with most of Jesus' disciples!  James and John wanted to have the right and left seats next to Jesus when He ruled the world ... Peter was always up front grabbing attention about how strong his commitment was, Simon the Zealot wanted to conquer Rome and free the nation – to be a hero.  Matthew while he was a tax collector wanted riches and fame from Rome.  One guy however was content to just be the "ORDINARY" guy in the group, his name was JAMES THE LESS or JAMES THE YOUNGER.  He was called the younger or “less” because he was Matthew's younger brother.  Tradition says he too was a tax collector before becoming a disciple, but evidently not as famous or cutthroat as his older brother Matthew.


Most of us dream of being something greater than just ordinary, and there will probably be a few times in your life when you will attract greater attention, but most of life will likely be filled with boring ordinary days.


While we may have a tendency to look down upon this ordinary life of ours, it is here that much of the good of our lives actually develops.  These “ordinary” times are just as valuable as the greater moments even if others don't think so!


ILLUS:    The great composer Irving Berlin wrote some of the greatest songs known to man, i.e. "God Bless America," "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," and others. One day when interviewed he wished the man interviewing him to ask him this question "What do you think of the many songs you've written that didn't become hits (or famous)?"  Berlin's answer to this was instructive: "I still think they are wonderful!"  To him they were just as wonderful as the other ones he did, just nobody else thought so!  This is how God looks at the famous and the not so famous saints, the great ones are great and so are the ordinary ones!  God as author loves everyone He has made!  Ordinary is ok! – Source Unknown


PROP. SENT:     God's Word teaches us that He takes great delight in the “ordinary” disciple; it is not fame God looks for in us as much as it is faithfulness!  Some of the most reliable and stable followers are quite ordinary!


I.  THE UNSUNG SERVANT!   Mark 15:40-16:3


A.   Invisible!   15:40

1.   “James the younger,” what does the Bible tell us about this guy? – NOTHING!

a.   There are no stories about him!

b.   Nothing bad is recorded about him anywhere!

c.   He seems to be ignored in the Bible except to remind us from time to time that he was with Jesus and that he served faithfully by virtue of being one of the apostles.  He was in the upper room and filled with the Spirit, he saw Jesus after the resurrection, etc.

2.   Matthew his older brother seems to have overshadowed him, that's why he is called the “younger.”

3.   He was practically invisible in history, but he was always faithful to serve or the Bible would have recorded his fall as it did the others when they fell.

a.   So many of God’s consistent servants are like this, quietly living out their lives in obedience to God’s Word, never grabbing the attention or headlining, just being faithful day by day.

b.   Their names may never go down in the annals of history, but they are written in the book of life!

4.   Many times these ordinary believers minister without notice by others, how anemic the church would be if it only had the services of its leaders and those who are always out front and not the men and women like “James the less” who are the faithful servants behind the scenes faithfully serving though not always noticed.


ILLUS:    Like Booker T. Washington, in his autobiography "UP FROM SLAVERY" he writes how the hardest thing he endured as a slave was the flax shirts they were given to work in.  These cheap shirts would cut the skin open and chafe so bad as to create sores.  Only after these shirts were worn for some time did they become comfortable.  His older brother who never achieved fame like he did however used to take the new shirts and wear them until they were broken in so that Booker didn't have to suffer the cutting and pin prick like feeling of the shirts ... he just did this for the love of his brother! – Source Unknown


B.   Influence!    15:40-16:3

1.   Where did James acquire the GIFT TO BE ORDINARY!?  The influence probably came from his mother.

a.   His mother is mentioned several times, usually with Mary the mother of Jesus.

b.   Here she is mentioned as one of the women who followed Jesus and cared for Jesus' needs, the practical and ordinary stuff!

c.   In other words, his mom was a model of being ordinary and extremely practical – and faithful.

d.   These women were evidently women of means, if Matthew his older brother and he had been tax collectors it is quite possible their father had been one too and so they had become a wealthy family.  Now that wealth was turned to serving Christ in down to earth practical ways, the family went from social standing among the rich to becoming ordinary servants to Jesus.

2.   James' mom was also there the day of Jesus resurrection to help anoint Jesus' body for what she thought would be a permanent burial.  16:1-3

a.   His mom's concerns here are again eminently practical, not to become famous!

b.   His mother was a model of behind the scenes ministry, of just being an ordinary servant with an extraordinary commitment!

3.   No doubt mom had set the focus for this family, she had taught her boys to focus on the really important stuff, the common ordinary touch.

a.   Where our focus is directed is usually where we will end up!

b.   If you focus on being some great person you will never get down to the business of serving faithfully day by day, you’ll always be looking for the moment when you can do something so great that everyone will take notice!

c.   Where is your focus?


ILLUS:    The “flying Wallendas” was one of the greatest tight rope walkers in history.  The father Karl fell to his death several years ago while attempting to cross between two buildings in Puerto Rico without using a safety net.  His wife explained to the press how just before this walk he had done something he had never done before, she said, “Karl never focused on falling before, he was too busy thinking about walking, but this time he spent the night before restless and focusing on falling, for the first time in his life he supervised the placing of guidelines and talked about falling, I think his focus on falling set the stage for his fall!”  How important it is where our focus is centered! – Source Unknown




A.   Impeccable!

1.   It is not a stretch of imagination to guess that “James the younger’s” record of service was impeccable; otherwise surely the Bible would have recorded his errors as indeed it did with almost every other disciple who failed.

a.   The lack of information may be an indication that there was nothing to report that was unusual, neither something great nor bad – just ordinary faithful walking; being consistent in his level of service.

b.   James was the kind of disciple that simply served as he was expected to serve, he didn’t assume others would take care of the need if he didn’t do it, like his mom he probably looked for what needed to be done and then just did it.

2.   How unlike service sometimes today in God’s kingdom where others assume someone somewhere will somehow take care of serving where the needs are.


ILLUS:     Remember 3-Mile Island, the near melt down of a nuclear power plant and the possible contamination of a large area here in the United States.  It really wasn't as much of an "accident" as many think, many people working that day had seen the dials reporting unusual activity at the plant, that there were several problems growing throughout the day.  However, no one did anything to correct the mounting problem because each person who noticed the dials automatically assumed someone was taking care of it, or would!  The worst nuclear accident on our shores almost happened because nobody took responsibility to check on things, they all assumed somebody else would do this! – Source Unknown


3.   This quiet behind the scenes Apostle served faithfully though in ordinary ways most of the time ... he never reached FAME, but boy he should reached FAITHFULNESS!


B.   Immense!    Matt. 20:20-28

1.   In his brother Matthew's Gospel it is recorded that “he that wishes to be GREATEST should become LEAST” or a SLAVE to others, James was good at being the "LESS!"

a.   Jesus' model was the servant, greatness in the Kingdom is not equated with greatness in the eyes of this world, or even the eyes of the church today – unless of course the church understands the biblical definition of greatness!

b.   While James has nothing recorded for us to read about, his contributions to the kingdom of God were IMMENSE!

2.   While we don't know his specific deeds, we know his name will be written on the foundation stones in heaven!

a.   We can't point out a single event he did, but his life is a testimony of great service, tradition says he died by stoning, preaching Jesus as Lord!

b.   Great names will come and go in history but their example and work live on.


ILLUS:    Like the great Lincoln Cathedral, a presenter was sharing with someone one day the beauty of the two great towers that adorn the west front part of that edifice, he pointed out the great detail and beauty of design and complexity of the work and then added as a matter of fact, "but we don't know who even built them."  The artist was unknown, yet the work remained for all to marvel at! – Source Unknown




A.   Inheritance   25:31-34

1.   What is the reward of the ordinary faithful servant of God?

a.   His brother Matthew’s book records Jesus as saying: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world!"  25:34   Heaven is the promise for the faithful and eternal life with Christ!

b.   Knowing this future joy and victory can have great impact on our faithfulness day by day, even when bad things happen we can be unshaken knowing what's coming.


ILLUS:    Like the guy who lives in Hawaii but loves Monday Night football.  Because of the time differences from California and Hawaii the TV broadcast of the games are delayed recordings.  However, when his favorite team is playing he can't wait to watch it on TV so he listens to the game on radio when it is broadcast live.  Then at night he watches the delayed recording on TV.  When he knows his team won from listening to the game live on radio he says that when he sees his team make a bad play or mistake he just sits there and says, "That’s bad, but it's okay, in the end I know we win anyways!"  This is just how we Christians can react to present struggles, "That’s okay, I know we will win anyways!"  We know our end if we remain faithful to Him. – Source Unknown


2.   When we know the future the present circumstances cannot shake us, so be faithful no matter what!


B.   Impressive!    25:35-40

1.   What kind of service impresses Jesus?  Look what is listed here in this same text:

a.   “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat…”

b.   “I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink…”

c.   “I was a stranger and you took me in...”

d.   “I was in need of clothes and you clothed me.”

e.   “I was sick and you looked after me...”

f.    “I was in prison, and you came to visit me.”

2.   How "UNGLORIOUS" these ministries are!  This is not the stuff of fame and greatness!  These are the needs of ordinary people!

a.   Jesus' point must not be missed, ordinary stuff is the service God is looking for, the mundane needs of others and our faithfulness to serve in these ways!

b.   This was the man we know as James the younger or “Less!”

3.   He is not impressive for any great event recorded in the Bible, but he is listed as an Apostle who served without incident until his death!

a.   This ordinary disciple is really one of the most impressive of the group!

b.   In spite of his youth and inexperience he was faithful to serve continuously.

c.   In spite of not having a great story to tell of something big he did he is simply a great example of the bulk of those who will serve the Lord generation after generation!

d.   Nothing negative at all about him, just ordinary greatness!  Don't lose heart saint if you never become famous or great in other peoples’ eyes even though you serve faithfully, someday your name and service will be proclaimed by Jesus before the entire world!  Be patient and keep serving till the end of time!


ILLUS:   Henry Morrison, after serving 40 years on the African mission field was heading home by boat.  On that same boat rode Theodore Roosevelt.  Morrison felt really dejected when the boat pulled into New York harbor and people started yelling for the famous Roosevelt.  No one was there to greet him or applaud his 40 years of faithful service in Africa; he was a “nobody” – without recognition!  He thought that after 40 years somebody surely should have acknowledged his homecoming and work! Then he heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit say to his dejected heart, "Henry, you're not home yet!"  His impressive service will be acknowledged when he truly gets home, even if nobody here ever notices it! – Source Unknown


CONCLUSION: The greatest work of God's kingdom is done by ordinary unknown believers!  While the world is unaware of their names it will not be unmoved by their service!  God will honor not our fame but our fidelity!  Faithful common service is the foundation of a healthy church and ministry even if you never become famous!  Being “ordinary” is okay and is the hallmark of greatness in God’s eyes!