Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Mark, Week 19 - Jesus is Bigger than our Perceptions

You know that saying, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover?” Well, I don’t know about you, but that’s never stopped me from doing it. It’s easy to take a glance at someone and think we know them. First impressions of people are how we proceed in our relationships with them. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist says that when we meet someone for the first time, we’re trying to evaluate their trustworthiness and confidence. And once we have naturally evaluated these things, we’re left with a perception of who a person is. And in order for that to change, a lot of time and effort has to be made on both parties part to change those perceptions.

If you were to meet me today, dressed in a nice suit, you might think of me one way. But if you were to come on Monday during the church clean up, dressing in raggy clothes, you’re perception of me might change. And that’s important to understand and recognize as we dive into Mark today. Because it is perception that can help lead us towards God or away from him. And we’ll see how that plays out today. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in Mark chapter 6, starting in verse 1.

Now as we get into these next five and a half verses, we’re finally coming to a stopping place within the Gospel. So far we have seen two parts of Mark’s Gospel. The first was the long introduction of who Jesus is. Jesus was showing by miracles and teaching, who he was. The second part was Jesus developing his disciples. This started with their call, but really got going when they began taking an active role in Jesus’ work. 

This led Jesus to begin to teach them through parables, so that those that wanted to know more, would seek out more, and those that didn’t care, wouldn’t. This is where Jesus told the parables of the four soils, the lamp, the growing seed, and the mustard seed. From there, we saw three events that challenged the people’s trust in Jesus. The first was the storm that Jesus calmed, this challenged the disciples to realize they didn’t fully understand who Jesus was. The second event was a possessed man being free, this challenged the people in that man’s town to trust Jesus even at the expense of their economic security. Which they decided that they didn’t want Jesus around. Finally, the third event was two-fold, and is the one we talked about last week. A sick daughter, a desperate father, a woman seemingly slowing down Jesus for her own healing, and then the trust of the desperate father in Jesus, which led to his daughter being raised back to life. 

All of this was to grow Jesus’ disciples and help them be the good soil that Jesus had told them they needed to be. But there is still one more event that Jesus takes his disciples through, before releasing them for ministry. And that’s where we pick up today. So let’s read, Mark chapter 6, starting in verse 1.

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Last week we covered twenty-two verses, today we’re only covering five and half. Why? Because we’re looking at the flow of Scripture, to see how each part connects with the whole. So let’s take this passage and see how it connects to where Mark is leading us.

We start off with Jesus coming back to his home town of Nazareth. And Mark makes sure to note that his disciples were there with him. This is important, because the disciples need to learn a lessons from all of this.
So Jesus comes back home, and as we have seen in the Gospel up to this point, he does his standard practice of going into the synagogue to teach. And, as has happened before, Jesus amazes the people. But their amazement is not the same as the amazement of others in the past.
See in Mark 1:22 it says, “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” These people were amazed because they were comparing and contrasting Jesus’ teaching with that of the teachers of the law. Jesus had authority to his teaching, where the others did not.
But that’s not what we’re seeing here. These people are not amazed at his authority, but rather at the challenge that his teaching is doing to their perception of Jesus. What’s that mean? Let’s take a look at how this group responds to Jesus.
They ask a series of questions starting with where did Jesus get these things: this wisdom, and miracles. Which I find odd. I mean from Luke 2:47, we know that at the age of twelve, Jesus was at least astounding the teachers at the temple in Jerusalem with his insights. So why would the people in his home town be wondering where it came from?
I can only assume it’s because Jesus laid off making his wisdom a spectacle, rather he humbled himself to his parents wishes. So maybe these people never heard Jesus’ wisdom because Jesus was waiting for his time.
But as they’re asking these questions, they start to make gabs and insults at Jesus. They say things like, “Isn’t this the carpenter?” Not the carpenter’s son, but the carpenter. What does a carpenter do? They work with their hands, it’s not an academic field. Carpenters weren’t educated in the ivory towers. They weren’t wealthy, and well versed. They were simply, wood workers. A skill passed down, and most were uneducated in the finer ways of religion and the world. So, in a sense, they are calling Jesus dumb.
But it doesn’t end their, the next four words are, “Isn’t this Mary’s son…?” Now, what they should have said was, isn’t this Jospeh’s son, because that was the custom, but they didn’t. So there’s two ways to look at this: First, it could be that Jospeh had died at this point, so Jesus’ only parent was Mary, i.e. Mary’s son. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. Because even if your father had died, you would still be called their son, due to the honor that brings. So the other reason they would call him Mary’s son, and the reason why I think they are, is because they’re being derogatory towards Jesus.
They’re saying Mary’s son, because, as we know in the other Gospels, Mary was pregnant before she laid with Jospeh. So what they’re really calling Jesus is, illegitimate. He has no father. 

So the people are amazed that an uneducated, illegitimate guy is able to do all the things that the rumors have said. And this is all accumulated into the phrase, “And they took offense at him.” Those two words, “took offense” in the Greek, is where we get our English word scandalize. Jesus’ standing up in front of them, telling them about who God was, and who he was; this uneducated, unknown parentage Jesus, was a scandal to them. And it was offensive. And these two words, “took offense,” means that this made them stumble.
Now what made them stumble? It wasn’t Jesus himself, but their preconceived ideas about him. To them, he was a uneducated carpenter, who’s mom slept with some guy before getting married. And now, this Jesus was doing miracles and teaching from the Scriptures. And their response was, no. They couldn’t accept it. And they did not want to change their perception of who they thought Jesus was, to who he really was.

And Jesus tells the people, his disciples included, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” Why? Because the perception we have of someone is not easily overcome. 
And if you remember the four soils that Jesus talked about, we have seen each one in these four events. In the boat, the disciples showed they were the shallow soil. After the man was saved from the demon, the people showed they were the hard path. The women, and the distraught father were the good soil. And these home town people, are the soil with thorns and thistles. Except it is their preconceived ideas about Jesus, that is choking his message from their lives.

But there is one more thing I want us to pick up on. In verse 6 is says this, “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” There is only one other time in the Gospels that it says that Jesus was amazed. And that’s the story of the Roman Centurion in both Matthew 8 and Luke 9. In that encounter Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith. Here, Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith. Two opposites, but both amazing to Jesus.

But here’s the thing, we can do this to God too. We can have preconceived ideas on what God can and cannot do in a life. What he can change, and what he cannot. This past summer we were having a Bible study, and a lady was there and she shared why she didn’t like to attend a church. This lady has had drug and alcohol problems in the past, and is trying to get clean and right with God. But the last time she tried to attend a church, she was told that she really wasn’t going change, and that she would always be a junkie.

Our preconceived ideas about people can hinder the work of God, in our lives. As it says in verse 5, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” Does that mean Jesus lost power because of these preconceived ideas? No, but these people didn’t get to experience God’s work, because they shut it off from their lives. And that’s the exact opposite of what God wants from us.
He wants us to be good soil, ready and willing to see his work. But that means that we need to go to him and ask him to strip away any idea that we have of him or we hold towards people, that is hindering his work.

Because, God wants us to be useful, and to experience the work he is doing, but we need to be willing to receive it. And that means having him cut away those things that keep us from seeing it.

So my challenge for you this week is simple, make two lists, one about God and one about someone you know. And write down three negative things that you assume about them, that you don’t know if their right or wrong. But three things that you think are right, but you don’t know for sure. And then this week, everyday return to those things and ask God, if these are wrong, strip them away so that I can see you and your work.

Let’s not just assume we have God and people figured out, but let us be willing to have our preconceived ideas about God and people changed, so we can see God as he truly is, and the people around us, as God sees them. If we can do this, our eyes will be open to see this world as Jesus does, and we will see his great works all around us. 

Now may God challenge and hang those preconceived ideas you have of him and others. May he open you to him, so that his change can move from you into the lives of others. Amen.

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