January 30, 2012

The Life of Jesus: All the Small Things Mark 3:20-34 and Mark 6:1-6

Have you ever noticed that is it easy to miss something right under you nose? That pair of glasses sitting on your head, the keys jingling in your pocket, or the cellphone you are actually talking on? I have done that more times than I would like to admit.

We all seem to miss things we shouldn’t. I find that phrase interesting...right under your nose. It reminds us that we miss plain and obvious things so often we had to create a cliche to describe it. For some reason our brains don’t click or our eyes skip over what we are looking for, and we’re not able to see or comprehend something...that is right under our nose

This happened a lot with Jesus. People were constantly missing what was right under their noses. But sometimes Jesus seems to be doing it intentionally. Throughout the Gospel of Mark, Jesus seems to make it easier for people to misunderstand. He goes about teaching and healing, but never actually saying who He is...instead he allows others to make up their own mind. He gives them just enough evidence, but expects them, and us, to draw the conclusion.

When we started this series I said that in the Gospel of Mark Jesus repeatedly asks the question, either directly or with his actions and teaching, “Who do people say that I am? Who do you say that I am?”

That is the million dollar question, “Who do you say that I am?” And we are only able to answer that question by being attentive to the things right under our noses. It is the small things that when we put them together help us answer that question. And today we are looking at some people who were not able to do that. They weren’t able to process what was under their noses and come to a proper conclusion.

We are looking at two different passages of Scripture today.

Our first passage is Mark 3:20-34
20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

Our second passage is Mark 6:1-6
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.

We see in these two or three stories, depending on how you want to talk about it...a common themes People who were close to Jesus...didn’t understand him.

Family members who were around Jesus all the time, religious teachers who were listening and watching, and neighbors who had watched him grow up...none of them understood who Jesus was or what He came to do. They should have been the first, but they weren’t. They missed it.

His family and neighbors couldn’t accept Him as the Messiah because this was little Jesus who used to run through the village streets playing with the other kids. This was Jesus who worked in the town carpentry shop for most of His life. He played back-up quarterback and ran the hurdles for Nazareth High. He had some insightful teaching and did some amazing miracles, but we know where He really comes from...and hidden in there was a little bit of a dig...because this was Jesus whom everyone knew was born from an out-of-wedlock union and God would certainly not honor that. So his closest family assumed He was out of His mind, and His village (in Mark 6) took offense and refused to put their faith in Him.

For the religious teachers, Jesus was the guy who came from nowhere-ville Nazareth. He broke rules and challenged their authority. He wasn’t even trained by a rabbi, and He certainly didn’t fit their idea of what a Messiah should be...so obviously he was possessed by a demon. Because only a demon possessed man would say the things Jesus was saying.

And in these stories we see the reality of something we have another cliche for...

Familiarity breeds contempt...

Let’s get in our Delorean, accelerate to 88 mph, and go back to the early 1990’s. Do you remember the actor Luke Perry from the 90’s show 90210? He is from a small town named Fredericktown, Ohio. It is just outside where I went to college in Mt. Vernon, Ohio.

While in college I worked third shift at Walmart with a guy who attended high school with him. So one night I asked this guy about him. He said something along the lines of...He was always telling us how he was going to go to Hollywood and be some big-shot actor...acting like he was better than everyone else...what a jerk! We never believed him.

The saddest part is that last statement wasn’t made in a we-are-sorry-we-were-wrong way. It was said with bitterness and anger...because they were wrong. Luke Perry actually made it out of Fredericktown and acted in the most popular show on television from 1990-2000...they could probably gloat over his career since then, but that’s another story.

They knew Luke Perry. They went to school with Luke Perry. They never imagined he would become Luke Perry of 90210 fame...and His success was somehow a critique of their life. Familiarity bred contempt.

Jesus’ family and neighbors are impressed by his teaching, and they want Him to do miracles there like he does everywhere else, but they couldn’t really accept the teaching from Jesus the carpenter because they knew Him. They started out by asking a good question, “Where did He get these things?” It is a legitimate question. But instead of seeing the divine origin, they could only look to Jesus’ earthly origins, and it made it easier to reject Him.

And here is something we should all take note of...it was easier for them to see Jesus as insane, possessed by a demon, or disregard him because of where he came from...than it was for them to actually think about the truth and impact of His message and actions. It was so easy for them to write Jesus off because it meant they didn’t have to do anything in response to His message.

And because of this...contempt came easy.

We can see it in the response of the religious leaders... “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” You can hear it in the response of the family and neighbors...“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?”

You can hear their contempt. And because of this contempt they were unable to really hear Jesus’ message or experience His miracles...and they missed the Messiah. He was right there under their noses, and they missed him because their familiarity bred contempt.

One of the other symptoms of familiarity, though is that...

Familiarity creates blindness...

Have you ever been working on a puzzle...you are looking for that one piece or any piece that will fit, but you just can’t find it. Then you get up, go to the refrigerator for a drink, you walk around for a minute, and when you return to the puzzle...Blamo! Right there in front of you! Why didn’t you see it before?

It is because familiarity will create blindness. When you are around something for a long time, you become blind to it. One of the hardest parts of preaching or doing devotions out of a common passage of Scripture is that you have seen it so many times it is hard to approach it with fresh eyes.

Or maybe, wives, you have had this experience...you keep telling him something, over and over, but he just doesn’t seem to be able to hear you. But then someone else says the exact same thing to him, and it is like a lightbulb lights up, and he finally gets it! Familiarity creates blindness.

There were some who were filled with contempt and anger at Jesus’ teaching and miracles...but there were some who were simply blind and indifferent to what He was doing. I think we see that is Jesus’ closest family members. They didn’t hate him. They weren’t filled with contempt. They loved Him and just felt sorry for their brother who had gone off the deep end.

They were blind to what Jesus was teaching and doing. They just couldn’t see it.

We have to be careful with familiarity, and we have to be aware of the things that are right under our noses.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani when asked how he made such dramatic changes in New York City said, "If you want to change big things, you pay attention to small things." There is another way of saying that...the devil is in the details. The small things make a big difference. This is true of both us as a church and us as individuals as we follow Christ. As a church we want to change the world for Jesus Christ. As individuals we want to continually take steps closer to God. And it will only happen as we pay attention to the small things.

Our lives are not usually the result of 1 or 2 big decisions. We are where we are in lives because of thousands of small decisions. Things that are right under our noses and yet we pay no attention to them usually because they are so familiar and run-of-the-mill.

It is easy to take our simple acts of service for granted...to disregard them as small things. The Cincinnati Vineyard has a saying that we have stolen...I mean borrowed, “Small things done with great love will change the world.” This morning I get to brag on Carrie a little bit. We have been doing our 1,000 Acts of Kindness emphasis. So a couple of weeks ago, Carrie takes the kids out, buys some Kroger gift cards, and then chases people around the parking lot giving them the gift cards as an act of kindness. That one act of kindness led a lady to use the card and then talk about it with her mother. The mother was so impressed a church would do something like that she told her friends about it that night and showed them our card. Then on Tuesday, she is my waitress at The Heights Cafe, we start a discussion and yesterday she let us do our outreach right there at the coffee shop! All from one act of kindness to a stranger.

Another small thing for us as a church is our children’s ministry. Over the past few months our children’s area has been growing in numbers, and it would be easy to think, “These are just children. We can let them play” But, as a church, we want to take seriously the spiritual development of our little ones. These are people who need to hear about God, know that He loves them, and begin to follow Jesus. We need people to join our children’s ministry who are willing to say, “I want to invest in our children!” This may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. If we want to build the church that will carry on into the next generation, we do the “small things” now and invest in our children.

We want to help people take their next step closer to God. This is a question of helping people grow into mature followers of Christ. If you want to grow in your spiritual life...you do the small things. You read the Bible, you pray, you meet with other Christians, you serve. It is easy to get into a rut with these things and go looking for something bigger and more spectacular...that magic bullet that will make us mature Christians. But growth happens each day as we go through our spiritual practices...as we do the small things.

We believe strongly in evangelism and helping people follow Jesus. If we want to introduce our family and friends to Christ...it starts with the small thing of acting like a follower of Jesus and then the other small thing of simply talking about what God is doing in our life. Most people don’t want or need a well-oiled presentation of the Gospel...they need your friendship, they need to see a life-giving faith practiced in your life, and they need to hear that it is real for you.

Anyone of these “small things” could be overlooked and disregarded...better churches and Christians than us have done so and found out the hard way. We have to resist the blindness or contemptuousness of familiarity and pay attention to the things right under our noses both as a church and as individuals pursuing God. There are so many things that will make a difference in our lives if we just pay attention to them...if we simply invest in doing the small things.

What are some small things that, if you started paying attention today, would make a huge difference in your life?

The people of Jesus’ time missed him because they were looking for something else. They weren’t looking for the carpenter down the street. They weren’t looking for the untrained teacher who had not studied under a rabbi. They weren’t looking for it to be their brother or son.

Let’s not miss out on the great things God has for us because we are blind to the small things right under our noses.

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