As good as it is to have been almost literally raised in the church, it does have its downside. One of them is our constant familiarity with the Holy Scriptures. It’s great to be able to say with Paul of Timothy, “From a child you have known the Holy Scriptures” (II Tim. 3:15), but that’s not all good.
Familiarity breeds contempt, the saying goes. In this case, it’s not so much contempt which lifelong church members contend with so much as–how to put this now–boredom. We have heard it so many times, it has lost its edge.
One of the greatest achievements of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to continually sharpen our commitment to Christ and our enjoyment of Him. He alone keeps putting the edge on our faith.
When we drift from faithfulness to the Lord–and by that I mean nothing in the world so much as we quit praying and reading the Word–the Holy Spirit, who can take a hint and know when He is not wanted, turns to others who want His help. You and I are hardly aware that He has moved away. And we are the last to see that something else has happened….
We have lost our edge. We have become bored with our faith and boring in our proclamation of it.
When the Holy Spirit is in the ascendancy (I’m saying that the way horoscope people speak of some planet exerting great influence) in our lives, many things happen. And one of the best is this: We see the Scriptures through fresh eyes. And what a good thing that is.
Wouldn’t it have been great to have been there when Jesus began His ministry and to have observed Him with fresh eyes! No preconceptions, no sermons from our favorite teachers and pastoring clouding our vision, just the pure sight of our wonderful Lord stepping out and speaking Heaven’s revelation.
What would our reaction have been? We can know the answer to that, to a great extent.
–We would have reacted the way the people then did. Some believed, some wanted to hear more, and some rejected Him on the spot.
–We would have treated Him then the same way we treat Him now. Seeing Him in the flesh would hardly have altered that.
–And, and this is what I came to talk about today, we would have been surprised.
Nothing about Jesus was as people were expecting. Case in point: the first 3 chapters of Mark’s Gospel.
If there was one overriding emotion felt by almost everyone who heard our Lord speak, it was: Surprise.
Nothing about Him was what people were expecting. That’s one reason religious experts rejected Him from the beginning.
1. Jesus’ Authority.
In 1:11, Jesus is the beloved Son of God from Heaven. What? Who does He think He is? The very idea!
In 1:17,20, Jesus calls disciples. He must think very highly of Himself to be gathering disciples around him!
In 1:22, the worshipers in the synagogue were “astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Wait a minute! He’s a carpenter–and He’s usurping authority not even our revered scribes assume. Again, who does he think he is?
In 1:26, Jesus commands demons to leave their victim. Fascinating!
In 2:10, Jesus forgives sin. Then, He heals the paralytic whom He had just forgiven. This is outrageous! No one but God can forgive sin! Why, if He has forgiven this man of sin, then this makes him God–and we know that cannot be!
2. Jesus’ Announcements.
In 1:14-15, Jesus announces that the Kingdom of God is at hand. No one prior to Him had said such a thing. Earlier preachers and prophets spoke of the “coming” Kingdom.He acts like He knows more than the rest of us!
In 2:17, Jesus said he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.No one can remember a religious leader saying such! Why, the first thing He ought to be doing is assembling all the religious leaders to form a steering committee!
In 2:19, Jesus likens Himself to a bridegroom at the wedding, saying this is no time to fast; it’s time to celebrate. Again, who does he think he is?
In 2:28, Jesus put Himself above the Law. He said, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” This is the ultimate blasphemy! The very idea!
3. Jesus’ Actions.
In 1:31, Jesus touched Peter’s mother-in-law and she was healed of a fever. He probably just inspired her.
In 1:34, “He healed many who were sick with various disease, and cast out many demons.”There has to be a psychological explanation for this.
4. Jesus’ Attitude.
In 1:40, a leper approaches Jesus. Now, celebrities do not have time for personal encounters with fans, we all know that. But this fan is a hideous leper. They’re under legal restraints to avoid human contact and call out “unclean” so no one will accidentally come near them and defile themselves. But look what happens.
Now a leper came to him, imploring him, kneeling down to him, and saying to him, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out his hand and touched him, and said, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.”
How wonderful is that–that Jesus felt compassion, that He touched the untouchable, and that He said those most amazing of words: “I am willing.”
5. Jesus’ Anger.
Perhaps we are surprised at the anger of our Lord. If so, nothing surprises us more than to whom it was directed. Not to the obvious, easy targets–the bad guys in any community. But to the religious crowd.
In Mark 3, our Lord is in the synagogue in Capernaum. A man with a withered arm is brought in and placed before Him as a test to see what He would do, it being a Sabbath. If He healed the man, the leaders would have reason to accuse Him. “And He said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Step forward.’ Then He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He healed the man’s arm.
Jesus has patience with a lot of things, but not with religious bigotry and hard-heartedness.
Surprised? You would have been had you been on the scene and had seen it for yourself.
What surprised the theologians was that Jesus forgave sin. (Mark 2:6)
What surprised the conservative leaders was that He violated the Sabbath,(Mark 2:24)
And what surprised the “little people” was how Jesus had time for them. Nothing they had ever heard had prepared the poor, the blind, the needy that the Messiah would have a special place in His heart for them. It was too wonderful for words.
But there was one group surprised by absolutely nothing Jesus did or said: the devils. They knew.
In Mark 1:24, as Jesus approached a fellow under the control of a demon, the evil spirit within cried out, “Let us alone! What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth! Did you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
In 1:34, we read, “He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.”
They did that all right. Satan’s forces had planned and looked forward to and dreaded this confrontation through the ages. And now, here it was–the Messiah had arrived for a showdown.
It was the conflict of all conflicts. The battle of the ages. The destiny of mankind hung in the balance.
Boring? Only if you are an imbecile or have had your mind befogged by inanities and the trivia of our earthly existence.
“Father, forgive us for approaching the greatest story ever told as though it were an old television rerun we had seen repeatedly. Forgive us for yawning through the Gospel story and finding the words of Jesus wearisome. The fault is not in Thee, not in Thy Word, and not in the Savior. The fault is ours alone. We have become so enamored by the tinsel of Earth we hardly recognize the Jewel of Heaven. Forgive us. Restore us. Sharpen us. Put a new edge upon us, Holy Father. For Jesus’ sake.”