Familiarity – Mark 6:1-3

Everyone in Nazareth knew Jesus.  The town wasn’t that big and Jesus had lived there most of his life.  When he came home and taught in the synagogue, the response might have been positive.  I’m the sort that loves it when guys from my hometown of Buffalo, NY, or my current home of Indianapolis make it big in one way or another.  Imagine if one of your local boys turned out to be the Messiah!?  It doesn’t get any bigger than that.

Alas, that was not the case.

Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.

Familiarity can go two ways.  They clearly knew enough about Jesus and his “mighty works” to put two and two together.  It was an informed decision.  But they also had enough information to imagine that their unbelief was justified.  “He’s just a carpenter, right?”  “And his mom, brother and sisters are just normal folks. We’ve known them forever.”  If they had anything privately against the family, say suspicion surrounding the circumstances of Jesus’s birth, or some minor scuffle with a one of the brothers, these things would not work in Christ’s favor.

They were still wrong.  Jesus was and is the Christ, the Son of God (Mark1:1).  Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

We can make the same mistake today.  People reject Christ due to familiarity.  They grew up in a Christian home or they know any number of Christians that they find unimpressive.  Or they pay Christ a bit of lip service while not accepting the Jesus we find in the Bible, because, well, they know a little too much, they believe.

This also happens in churches to otherwise solid believers.  It is more subtle, but the same basic thing.  The longer we know a pastor, a worship leader or the overall atmosphere of the church, we are faced with a continuous decision.  We can stay faithful for the sake of the relationships and continue to help build the ministry – or not. 

Maybe we’re kind of bored with the music.  Maybe we wish they would stress our favorite doctrinal stance a little more then they do.  Maybe we like the decor of another building or the neighborhood in which another church is located.  We can go on. 

Familiarity can increase commitment, cultivate brotherly love and build trust.  Long, old friendships are usually the best we have.  Or, we can collect evidence that something is seriously wrong.  If they did it with Jesus, we can certainly do it with other sinners saved by grace.  

 

 

Misunderstanding and Lies – Mark 3:20-35

Jesus’ family thought he was losing it.  The scribes were convinced he was evil.  Neither was right.  Jesus understood them far better than they understood him.

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” … 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

If we are going to faithfully follow Jesus there are two accusations that we have to expect.  They were leveled at Christ and we will make easy targets for them too.  They are simply:

  1. You are crazy.  If, as Paul says, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Cor 1:18), then we can expect those who believe it to be looked upon as fools.  
  2. You are evil.  This is almost the oldest lie in the book, since it echoes the serpent’s slander of God, calling his motives into question in dealing with Adam and Eve.  It is an easy switch to move from slander against God to slander against Christ to slander against God’s people.  Again, we can expect it.

The beauty of all of this misunderstanding and outright falsehood is that Christ endured it first.  In our case some of the misunderstanding is justified, some of the criticism is true and, let’s face it, our motives are rarely altogether pure.  Yet even when we really are completely in the right, if we expect to be treated like Jesus, there will be those people who fail to grasp that.  Some of them will be important, like the scribes, so their criticism will feel very demeaning.  Some of them will be close, like our family, so their misunderstanding will hurt.  We can only imagine how Christ felt.

Matthew 12 Verse By Verse

Matt photoJesus enters into further controversy, this time starting with what is or is not allowed on the Sabbath.  He adds teaching about his own resurrection and who his true family is.  

Matthew 12.mp3     (Jake Medlong)

 

Vicarious faith – Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26

Christ’s death for our sins is sometimes referred to as vicarious atonement.  He took responsibility for us when we were incapable of atoning for ourselves.  That is a wonderful fact and an essential concept that is basic to the Christian faith.  If you want, you can read more about it here.

Now we are going to talk about something else — vicarious faith — an idea central to the Christian life.  Needy people are not always in a position to believe.  They may need us to step in for them and take the responsibility upon ourselves to believe.  Our faith can stand in for their faith, our prayers for their prayers.  Matthew 9 shows us an extreme case.

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. … 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

The ruler came to Jesus on behalf of his daughter.  She was dead.  In the house was a lifeless, breathless and certainly faithless corpse.  Her father reached out in faith when she was unable to believe for herself.  The mourners were no help.  Their expressions of grief were interrupted by their laughing at Jesus.  But Jesus did what Jesus does and the girl arose.  I want to exercise that kind of faith on behalf of others.

Goldilocks zeal – Matthew 8:18-22

Like the famous porridge in the story of Goldilocks, a person’s response to Jesus can be “too hot” or “too cold.”  Let’s take  a look at a couple of examples before we determine what a “just right” response would be. 

18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 

This scribe seems to have not thought his commitment through.  His response is too hot, or overzealous, given his level of understanding.  Jesus may made his home in Capernaum, possibly with Simon Peter and family, but the reality of his ministry meant that he didn’t often get back there at night.  At a deeper level, we have to think through where our true home is.  Paul reminds believers that our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  If we do not consider this reality, then we may find our commitment to Christ is superficial.  It may not stand the test of time or the rigor of unforeseen trials.

21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Without going into detail, we can see that he is asking for a delay.  Maybe it would be weeks or months, maybe a year or more.  Here are some thoughts from Billy Graham.  The man grasps  that following Christ involves sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that he is unwilling to make.  Unlike the overzealous scribe, this man is underzealous or too cold.  

A Goldilocks response to Jesus needs to be carefully thought through rather than hasty.  But it also needs to be willing to give whatever is necessary for the cause of Christ.  This world is not our home anyway, so with that in mind, why wait?  A true and thorough cost-counting will reveal that Jesus is worth more than anything or anyone that we might decide to place before him.

 

A Prayer Prompted by the Genealogy in Matthew 1

Heavenly Father,

We thank you that you did not send Jesus only to the prominent and lovable people of this world or for their sake only.  Thank you that our Savior has the variety of people that he has in his family line. We see the lost, the lonely, the unloved and the despised there giving his genealogy a fair representation of the human race.  The adulterer and immigrant are found alongside the kings and counselors.  In some cases they are the same people.  

You knew who we were and what kind of Savior we needed.  Therefore, you sent us Jesus Christ, your unique, your only-begotten Son, in a way and to a people that would require him to identify with us in all of our sin and shame.  Thank you furthermore for the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It through him and because of his work that we live.

Amen

A Shared Tragedy: Sin and Its Effects – Genesis 3-11

Unity, Diversity and Our Identity in Christdiversity
Part 2 of 14

The entrance of sin into the world has had devastating consequences for us all.

A Shared Tragedy Gen 3-11.pdf                

A Shared Tragedy Gen 3-11.mp3

 

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wildrose115/27623264486