Saturday, October 07, 2006

Mark 6:1 – 6
Surprising Jesus

Jesus is “amazed at their lack of faith.” So how could something, anything, surprise Jesus? [Theological issue: Jesus was “limited” as part of His experiencing humanity.]

What was it about these people that surprised Jesus?

1. The fact, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor,” is expected. Jesus noted this as if He were saying “everyone knows this...” It is quoted in all four gospels (Mt 13:57, Mk 6:4, Lk 4:24, Jn 4:44). Oddly enough, this seems to be a non-biblical proverb. Kind of like our “familiarity breeds contempt.” Its just something everyone knows. Its community wisdom observed as a truth. So their rejection of him, based on familiarity should not surprise Jesus.

2. They apparently were Jews, worshiping in the local synagogue [v2]. We get the impression that the Jews of that day were looking for a deliverer they called the Messiah. The Messiah was the promised King of Israel, who was in the line of David. These people were privileged by this expectation in many ways. While the rest of the world was ignorant, they had accurate information. Sure, many were discouraged, but there were people who were working to bring back the King. Maybe, for some, that hope was kindled when they recognized the wisdom of Jesus words and the power of His actions [v2]. Yet, privilege does not lead a person to truth. Jesus said that over and over, so it should not surprise Him that they did not recognize the King of Kings.

3. Why did they “trip(ped) over what little they knew about (H)im” [The Message]? Well they went through a process described by Gordon Allport in “The Psychology of a Rumor.” In order to handle everything they were experiencing, they condensed Jesus life [v 3]. This is called “leveling.” Its always from our perspective. Notice the details are from their experience with Jesus and leave out important details that would disturb their world view. They “sharpened” the details, in essence reducing Jesus to “just” a carpenter. Then they “assimilated” it all into an idea: Jesus was not the expected King, but Jesus was acting like it. Their response, “And they took offense at him.” [v 3] One of the key things that Jesus kept saying was, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” [Mark 4:23] So, He knew people would not always acquire, process, remember, or speak information correctly. Their faulty ability to process the evidence before them is nothing new, so this did not surprise Jesus.

(Ill.) A man who lived on Long Island was able one day to satisfy a lifelong ambition by purchasing for himself a very fine barometer. When the instrument arrived at his home, he was extremely disappointed to find that the indicating needle appeared to be stuck, pointing to the sector marked "HURRICANE." After shaking the barometer very vigorously several times, its new owner sat down and wrote a scorching letter to the store from which he had purchased the instrument. The following morning on the way to his office in New York, he mailed the letter.

That evening he returned to Long Island to find not only the barometer missing, but his house also. The barometer's needle had been right--there was a hurricane! [E. Schuyler English.]

4. If we sum up these people, it would seem they indulged in three behavioral attitudes.

They were SKEPTICAL. The communal posturing toward Jesus was the He was “just” a carpenter, nothing special.

Maybe they were being SELFISH. They were unwilling to admit that someone from their town was special, which meant that they were not...

In other words, they were STUBBORN, which comes from selfish arrogance. The bottom line is that it seemed, for the most part, they did not want anything special. Because if they admitted, that Jesus was special it would mean they could not comfortably go on with life. They would have to do something about what they knew.

A thousand years before Jesus was surprised, the prophet Samuel said to a stubborn King: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance (“stubbornness” = other translations) like the evil (“sin” other translations) of idolatry.” [1 Samuel 15:22b - 23a]

5. As a result, “(Jesus) could not do any miracles there...” [v 5]. Now that surprises us! How is that the Creator of the universe could not do any miracles?

Maybe to understand the answer, we need to look at the only other time Jesus was ever surprised. We find the story in Matthew 8:5 – 13.

6. Here is an officer in the Roman army who’s faith “astonished” Jesus. The Romans were an occupying force that the expected King was supposed to defeat. So, you wouldn’t think that this natural enemy would be a likely candidate for having the kind of faith that could surprise Jesus. Yet, the centurion was desperate. Or maybe we should say uncomfortable. The situation of one of his servants was desperate. He must have loved the servant to take such a big chance.

7. Here it is: the centurion’s faith (which surprised Jesus in both cases, one’s lack of and the other’s “abundance” of faith) led him to take a risk which involved humbling himself and appealing to Jesus. For all his authority, he was powerless and sought out one whom he believed had authority to heal. Maybe it was his understanding of authority that allowed him to trust Jesus. The bottom line is that he acted on this trust. One the other hand, what surprised Jesus in the first story was their lack of faith.

“Faith is not merely your holding on to God--it is God holding on to you. He will not let you go!” – E. Stanley Jones.

8. In another place, the Bible put it this way: “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” [James 2:17b] You can say you have faith, or believe, or trust God, until the cows come home (they are not smart enough to do so on their own) but unless you act like it, it does you no good. Your faith is worthless at best and dead at worst. We are like those cows out in the field, looking silly while suffering through life. (Ill. of a bottle of medicine... or car keys...)

a. Are you skeptical or do you take faith-based risk? When was the last time you took a public stand for Jesus and laid your reputation on the line, so that something special would happen, like the centurion?

b. Are you selfish or trusting? The town’s people only cared about what they thought and saw, the centurion acted for someone else’s benefit.

c. Are you stubborn or do you really want God to do something special? If you do, what do you need to do that you cannot do yourself?

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man's power ends.” – George Muller.

What is this going to look like? It will mean a public confession of faith. Have you made one or are you still in the closet? It will mean a public trusting for healing, not just asking for prayer. It will mean serious prayer, corporate prayer. Scripture (and history) seems to indicate that God scales His movement in proportion to the church’s corporate prayer life. It will mean that we just might have to get out of the comfortable, safe boat, and walk on water.

Did you notice that in the town, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” [Mark 6:5] To put this bluntly, I want to be the exception in today’s world/church. How about you?

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