Monday, July 09, 2012

Sermon on Mark 6:1-13, for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, "Taking Offense at Jesus"

Sermon Outline: 
1.      Jesus’ visit to His hometown wasn’t what you might expect. Family visit, warm welcome, reunion of friends and neighbors. Left a young man, a carpenter; returned grown, now a teacher (!) filled with astonishing wisdom, and performing mighty works! Same guy? Little kid from down the street? Now with a band of disciples, teaching in the synagogue about the kingdom of God, and repentance. Sizing Him up against the little kid they remembered, wondering who does He think He is? The Son of God? Well, yes, He is! They took offense at Him. Scandalized. Stumbled over.
2.      As one author put it: “The people were also scandalized by Jesus’ lowly origin. They found it difficult to believe he was any better than they or his family were. In their opinion he was nothing more than an ordinary craftsman. Their physical knowledge of Jesus prevented them from having a spiritual knowledge of him” (J.A. Brooks). So it was difficult for neighbors and even family to honor Jesus as a prophet among them. Instead they only saw the child who grew up down the street. Too familiar a face. Ezekiel faced a similar rejection, OT reading: “Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezek. 2:5). Stubborn and rebellious people refuse to hear. Same today. Jesus said, “a prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives, and in his own household.”
3.      What makes people take offense at Jesus today? Or do they? How are we prevented from having a spiritual knowledge of Him? Unmistakably, a major part of the offense and rejection of Jesus (and later His disciples…and John the Baptist) was the way they confronted sin. First word is of repentance. Then, the gospel of forgiveness. “They went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” John the Baptist and Jesus both proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
4.      The message of repentance confronts us on the most basic level of our sinful nature. Sin can be comfortable, pleasurable, habitual; can be deeply ingrained, covered by pride, pride itself can be sin! So any time our sins are confronted, we want to cry out like a little kid “Don’t tell me that!!” It’s ok if it’s someone else’s sins, or a safe and generic “nobody’s perfect” or even “we’re all sinners”—but don’t name my sin! We’re always defensive about our own sin.
5.      But what if you don’t think Jesus could ever offend anyone at all? Strange that today we sometimes unconsciously turn Jesus into a tame and mild-mannered man that never ruffled anyone’s feathers and only spoke sweet things. Are we surprised that He could say anything challenging or rebuking to anyone? If that’s the ‘Jesus’ we’ve come to think of or believe in, we’ve manufactured a fraud, and are not being true to the character of Jesus as He’s revealed in the Gospels.
6.      The Gospel of Mark is especially noted for the abrupt and sincere way that it lays out Jesus’ hard sayings, and the rude reception and dishonor He received from people. Mark never glossed over it, because we need the full-fledged Jesus to be our Savior. Not a shadow of Him, or a fuzzy picture, but the full, clear picture. Jesus spoke hard words to the proud, the self-righteous, the pretenders and the cruel. He spoke gentle words to the despised, the lowly, the broken and poor. He spoke law to those who were unrepentant, who held stubbornly to their sins, and spoke Gospel to those who were suffering.
7.      Jesus’ neighbors didn’t receive Him then, but ask ourselves, do we receive Him now? Not a face-to-face visit, but as we hear Him in His Word. Do you listen to Him as a prophet, as your Savior, as the very Son of God? Do we welcome His words of rebuke when He calls us to repent of our sin? Do we take offense at Him, or do we honor Him with a receptive heart? Jesus said, Matt. 11:6, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” As Jesus prepared His disciples for their rejection for His name’s sake, He told that some would show hospitality and welcome Him, while others would give them the same treatment as Him.
8.      Jesus’ claim to Godhood as offense. Jews, people today. Mere man. Physical knowledge (great teacher), but no spiritual knowledge. Not flaunting, didn’t use miracles to impress. Cross would be the greatest offense. Deut. 21:23 “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Greatest rejection. But through this horrible rejection, dishonor, and death, Jesus made His claim to being God clear by rising from the dead. This miracle brought it all together.
9.      How did Jesus handle “rejection?” What about how He instructed His disciples? Didn’t send down fire to destroy the towns (though James and John asked once). Didn’t turn to hatred, revenge. Lamented over them instead: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” God’s heart is moved by compassion for the lost. Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief.” Must really take a lot to surprise God—He’s seen it all. But unbelief is astonishing to Him. Not logical, understandable, reasonable. But in our stubborn, rebellious, sinful nature.
10.  What does Jesus teach His disciples to do when they are rejected, in His name? He sends them out with nothing but themselves, relying completely on God’s providence and the hospitality of others. They are to return with nothing more. Don’t trade up for better accommodations. When they were rejected, they were to do what they could where they could (sacrifice) and then move on. Don’t get stuck on it. There were plenty more people in need of help and the message. So also for us, there are many times when we linger and dwell on rejection, and don’t move on. A person’s heart may not be ready.
11.  But finally, how does a heart become hospitable to Jesus anyway? How do we become receptive to Jesus and honor Him in the first place? Not for a single one of us does it happen through our own natural good will. 1 Cor. 12:3 “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” Only by God’s Spirit working on and changing our heart are we or were we made receptive. Ezekiel 36:25-27, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” God has to do “heart surgery” on all of us to make us receptive. Have ears to hear, His Word.
12.  So let us pray in the words of the Psalm, that God would give us a heart that would be receptive to and honor Jesus as our Savior, and as the One who endured being rejected, so that we might be forgiven and accepted by God: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
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  1. How was Jesus’ return to His hometown not received with such a warm welcome? Mark 6:1-6. How did Jesus’ own family react to Him during His ministry? Mark 3:21, 33; John 7:5. How did this later change? 1 Cor. 15:7; Acts 1:14. What was the cause of their dishonor toward Jesus?

  1. Why is rejection and dishonor part and parcel of what Jesus, the prophets, His disciples, and Christians today still face, when bringing God’s Word of repentance and forgiveness? Ezek. 2:3-5; John 17:14; Matt. 10:16-25.

  1. What does it mean in Mark 6:5, that Jesus could do no mighty works there, except a couple of healings? It shows that Jesus “was not the kind of miracle worker whose primary purpose was to impress His viewers.”

  1. What is astonishing about unbelief, viewed from God’s perspective? Psalm 14; Rom. 1:19-23. How had Jesus given ample opportunity to believe? What gets in the way of our believing? Matt. 13:13-17

  1. How is a person’s heart made receptive to Jesus and His Word? What is the “prep work?” Mark 6:12; 1:2-5. Who alone holds the power to change a heart toward God? 1 Cor. 12:3. How does the Spirit make the heart receptive to Jesus, after He’s done His prep work? Ezek. 36:25-27.

  1. How would Jesus’ rejection continue all the way to His cross and beyond? Also for His disciples? How are they and we to respond to rejection? How do we honor Jesus and receive His Words rightly?

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