Jesus Surprised

“He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:6).

I doubt much surprised Jesus – but it did happen.

He had gone to his hometown and taught in the synagogue. If he taught what he usually did, it was “get ready for the Kingdom of God” – and one got ready by repentance and entrusting one’s life to Jesus.

This Nazareth story comes just after four vignettes about death. First, the disciples thought they were going to die in a storm on the Galilee. Second was the story of a demon possessed gentile who lived among the dead. Third was the woman who has been dying for twelve years with a bleeding problem. Finally, there was the little dead girl Jesus raised.

Sharyn Dowd remarks: “There is a progression through the four stories of the seriousness from which Jesus rescues people. . . Mark makes the point that through Jesus, God’s power overcomes every threat to life and wholeness, even the ultimate threat of death. Moreover, Jesus extends this wholeness to men and women, Jews and gentiles, the pure and the polluted. No place or condition is beyond the reach of God’s saving power.”

Those stories lead to this one. After all Jesus had done, his kinsmen refused to take advantage. Mark gives two reasons: First, they couldn’t imagine one of their own being so successful. Second was Jesus’ teaching: The benefits of the power of God are not up for grabs to any and all. They require submitting to the way of Jesus – a notion the home folks just couldn’t abide.

Given all Jesus had to offer, their rejection was surprising.

When we reject him, I imagine it still is.

Finding Peace In Chaos

For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well (Mark 5:28).

The Gospel of Mark introduces Jesus with a prologue of fifteen verses.  The next section of the book (1:16 – 3:6) contains five important scenes of exorcism or healing, followed by five controversial actions of Jesus.  The section ends with the plot of the Pharisees and Herodians to kill Jesus.

As the second section unfolds (3:7 – 6:6), the opposition to Jesus intensifies – beginning (and ending) with his own family – and with increasing opposition comes increasing chaos.  People are crowding Jesus, falling before Jesus, and falling on Jesus.  In the middle of it all come two people: Jarius, a synagogue ruler, and an unnamed woman.  The woman needs healing for herself, the ruler needs healing for his daughter.  The two stories are set up to be read in comparison.  “Jarius is a man of distinction, honor, and has a name.  The woman is “unclean” and is unnamed. Jarius can approach Jesus from the front and ask Jesus for help.  The woman must approach from behind and steal it. Jarius is rich.  The woman is destitute. Jarius has a family.  The woman will never have a family.” Jarius’ daughter is twelve years old.  The woman has been ill for twelve years.

For all their differences, these two have three things in common: both believe in Jesus, neither escape anxiety, and both find peace.
Life will always have times of chaos and in those times faith will always be challenged by anxiety. But those who focus on their confidence in Jesus will find both removed and peace restored.

Let Him Have His Way

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed (Mark 5:18-20).

This story seems to captivate Mark. He gives it more attention than any of the other gospel writers. Among the details only Mark mentions is the healed man’s response of discipleship.

The demons in the story beg Jesus not to send them out of the area. They beg Jesus to send them among the pigs. The people beg Jesus to leave their area. But the demon possessed man begs to follow Jesus and though Jesus doesn’t allow it, he does commission him to tell what God has done for him – which is interesting because up to now, Jesus has forbidden anyone to speak of him (see Mark 1:24, 25, 34; 3:12) – not that anyone paid attention.

What made this man such an acceptable evangelist?

I note this difference. The demons, and the people of Gerasa all wanted Jesus to do what they wanted. The healed man simply wanted to do what Jesus wanted – and was willing to do it.

Certainly we all ought to tell our family and friends what Jesus has done for us, but our story becomes more credible when it flows from an obedient heart. People will truly be amazed at what God can do with our lives when we let Him have His way rather than when He lets us have our way.

Never Forgiven

Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin (Mark 3:28-29).

An eternal sin? Never forgiven?

That’s a show stopper! Matthew and Luke also mention this warning. Even John mentions a “sin that leads to death” (1 John 5:16).

But what is it?

Context, and a little Old Testament, can help our understanding. In Numbers 15:27-31 God speaks of sin that “remains.” Unforgivable, it is the defiant sin. The prophet Eli’s sons persisting impenitently in what they knew God found reprehensible. Eli himself committed it because he refused to discipline his boys. They became “un-atoneable.”

Most sin takes us on a steady, slight, spiritual decline. The problem with defiant sin is that the slope is at a greater angle and before we know it, we’re at a dead run in the wrong direction we cannot stop.

In our text, Jesus’ opponents are distressed by teaching they perceive as “new” and at odds with what they’ve always thought. Rather than carefully consider who Jesus might be (and the truthfulness of his words) they sought to counter the Lord with a “name calling” campaign to impugn his reputation. While Jesus is willing to forgive them, he knows they are unwilling to repent and will later even oppose His replacement, the Holy Spirit. They are racing down Fool’s Hill to the city of Beyond Hope.

All sins, really, are forgivable – as long as we turn from them. The eternal sin begins as one we won’t turn from. It ends as one we can’t turn from. That’s what makes it eternal. Consider the road you take. It may not have an exit.