This week we will see two parallel themes. First, rejection of both Christ and of John the Baptist; then expansion – of Christ’s ministry by delegating his authority to his disciples.
We understand that you have called us to lives of ministry, lives of service, here in this world. Though our gifts may differ, our responsibility is much the same. We need to live completely for you.
We also understand that we will continue to learn as we serve. You do not require our training to be complete before you use us, but rather we expect you to train us as we begin to be used.
At the same time we need to count the cost.
Jesus was rejected repeatedly in his hometown of Nazareth. People knew him, but allowed their familiarity to get in the way of seeing who he really was.
John the Baptist angered selfish rulers who engaged in immoral behavior. It eventually cost him his life. We can expect the same kind of rejection as we seek to serve you.
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. 2 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! 3 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.
These words that Jesus spoke to Jairus regarding his daughter can easily apply in any number of situations that we face. Here is how they appear in context.
35 While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”
The context in this case is vital to understanding what Jesus is saying.
Jairus came to Jesus as his daughter was dying, asking for help. Before they got home, however, the daughter had died. When all was lost, Jesus encouraged Jairus with the words, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” As it happened, Jesus raised her back to life.
Why does God so often wait until all hope is lost? Perhaps it is so we are more focused upon hoping in him. There is something spiritually healthy about being brought to the end of ourselves. Self-sufficiency can be an enormous obstacle to faith. Hope in anything or anyone but Jesus can redirect us away from trusting him.
When it is obvious that we cannot do anything to fix our situations, and neither can anyone else, God has the opportunity to intervene without interference. He must like that, because he puts us in that place of helplessness pretty often.
What hopeless situation are you facing right now? I am facing a few of them, but I won’t clutter this post with their tedious descriptions. Christ’s message to us might be the same as his message to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; only believe.”
We confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is worthy of our worship and worthy of our most complete loyalty and commitment.
We pray that you would fill us with the confidence we need to be open about our faith.
We pray also for patience and perseverance in the task of sowing the word.
We pray that over time our lives would bear fruit as you intend. Let us be that good soil in which your word produces fruit, thirty, sixty and one hundredfold what we are given.
We look to you as the one who can make that happen in our lives, and we know full well it is not something that we can accomplish in and of ourselves.